Thousands of Turks demonstrated in Istanbul on Thursday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink’s assassination and protest the latest court ruling in the case.
Chanting “Murderer state will account for this” and “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism,” an estimated 20,000 people marched from the city’s central Taksim square to the offices of Dink’s bilingual “Agos” newspaper. News reports said they left red carnations and lit candles there.
The crowd was led by activists carrying a large banner that read, in Turkish and Armenian, “We are all Hrant Dink, we are all Armenians.”
Dink, who championed Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, was shot dead in broad daylight as he left the “Agos” offices on January 19, 2007. His self-confessed murderer, Ogun Samast, was arrested several days later and sentenced to 23 years in prison last July.
Earlier this week, an Istanbul court convicted another Turkish ultranationalist of instigating the murder. The man, Yasin Hayal, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Nineteen other defendants were acquitted of a charge of being part of a terrorist group. The court ruled that there was no wider plot to kill Dink, who had angered nationalists by referring to the 1915 Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Dink’s family and its lawyers are not satisfied with the verdict, saying that the Turkish authorities have failed to investigate the collusion and negligence of state officials in the murder. The “Agos” editor’s widow Rakel and children also took part in Thursday’s demonstration.
“They surrounded us with lies. It has been like this for five years and they finally gave us two people and asked us to be content with them,” journalist Karin Karakasli told the crowd, according to the AFP news agency.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted on Wednesday that his the government did its best to help solve the murder. “I see that public consciousness is not satisfied,” he said in a TV interview cited by AFP. “There have been various expectations (about the case). It is possible to share some of them but I cannot join them in general.”
The chief judge in the case, Rustem Eryilmaz, also expressed doubts about his own verdict, saying that any “connections” between the culprits and the state could not be clearly established before the trial. “However, this is the only decision we could take, according to the available evidence,” Eryilmaz told private news channel NTV.