An official from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) claimed during his 2014 testimony that Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in 2007, was invited to the İstanbul Governor’s Office in 2004 to be “warned” over some of his controversial reports upon a request from the General Staff, the media has revealed.
The meeting was attended by Dink, former İstanbul Vice Governor Ergun Güngör and two MİT officials.
The details of the testimony given by Özel Yılmaz — one of the two MİT officials who attended the meeting — on Dec. 22, 2014 to İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Gökalp Kürkçü, who is overseeing an ongoing investigation into the killing of Dink, was recently revealed to media outlets.
According to a report in the Radikal daily on Monday, Yılmaz claimed in his testimony the meeting was held on the orders of the General Staff. Yılmaz reportedly told the prosecutor an official from the General Staff had called former MİT Undersecretary Şenkal Atasagun and requested that MİT “warn” Dink over his reports about the ethnic origin of Sabiha Gökçen, the adopted daughter of the founder of the Turkish Republic.
Yılmaz also reportedly claimed Atasagun appointed former MİT İstanbul Regional President Hüseyin Kubilay Günay to coordinate the meeting to warn Dink. Yılmaz also claimed during his testimony the MİT officials accidentally bumped into Dink when they were at the İstanbul Governor’s Office to collect some documents that Dink had provided to the governor’s office. Yılmaz also claimed he spoke to Dink about a prison sentence given to Dink over his reports, in which Dink alleged that Gökçen was of Armenian origin.
This testimony by Yılmaz has been questioned because it has some contradictions. Dink had not yet been handed down any prison sentence at that time when the meeting was held in 2014, contrary to what Yılmaz told the prosecutor.
In 2005, Dink was given a six-month suspended prison sentence after he was accused of denigrating “Turkishness” in writings about the identity of Turkish citizens of Armenian origin.
The MİT official said they did not go to the governor’s office to meet with Dink, but to collect the abovementioned documents. “When we were sitting in Güngör’s office, Dink came into the room. When we attempted to leave, Dink told us: ‘Please don’t bother. I can leave.’ Güngör presented us as his relatives and Dink told him our presence [in the room] would not be a problem for him. Later, we could not say we were actually MİT officials so as not to create any problems for Güngör.”
The details of the testimony given by Güngör on Dec. 9, 2014 were also revealed in the Radikal daily on Monday. According to the report, Güngör’s testimony also refutes some parts of Yılmaz’s testimony. Güngör said the meeting was held on a request by MİT, adding the governor’s office had no active role in the meeting except hosting it. Güngör also said the meeting was organized by Yılmaz and another MİT official, refuting Yılmaz’s claim that they accidentally bumped into Dink at the governor’s office.
Güngör also said Dink was invited to the meeting to be warned of “possible danger if he continues to make controversial statements.” He also said he introduced the two MİT officials as his relatives because MİT had requested in advance that he not reveal the identities of its officials.
A report published on news portal internethaber.com on Monday also claimed new footage has recently emerged on the assassination of Dink. According to the report, the footage shows six gendarmerie intelligence officers also in front of the Agos newspaper’s building at the time of the murder.
The report also pointed out the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had already detected that signals were received from telephones belonging to six gendarmerie intelligence officers around the scene where Dink was shot at the time of the incident.
The news portal also says if the prosecutor’s office confirms that those six individuals detected in the footage were actually gendarmerie intelligence officers, this proves Dink’s murder was committed under the supervision of the gendarmerie.
Dink was shot and killed by ultranationalist hitman Ogün Samast in broad daylight outside the office of the Agos newspaper, where he worked, on Jan. 17, 2007. Samast was given a 22-year prison sentence, while a key suspect in the case, Yasin Hayal, was given a life sentence for inciting Samast to commit murder.
A retrial started in September 2014 when the İstanbul 5th High Criminal Court complied with a ruling from the Supreme Court of Appeals in May 2013 overturning a lower court’s ruling that acquitted the suspects in the Dink murder case of charges of forming a terrorist organization. This decision paved the way for the trial of some public officials on charges of voluntary manslaughter.