In this photo taken two days after the killing of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink on Jan. 19, 2007 by Ogün Samast, police officer Yakup Kurtaran (L) and another security official pose with Samast (C) with a Turkish flag in the background. The photo was taken after Samast was caught in Samsun, two days after the murder. (Photo: Today’s Zaman)
The 4th Chamber of the high court on Thursday annulled the ruling in the trial of the two police officers, who were being tried on charges of violating confidentiality in an investigation. The lower court is now expected to hear the case again on charges of praising a crime and a criminal.
The high court wanted a retrial for Metin Balta, who was the deputy director of the Samsun Police Anti-Terror Department at the time of Dink’s murder and Superintendent İbrahim Fırat from the same department. The two men took a photograph with Samast, who was captured in Samsun, before he was handed over to authorities in İstanbul. The photo of the two officers, with Samast in the middle, posed in front of a Turkish flag, caused outrage, although it later became clear that the incident should not have come as a surprise. The later Dink murder trial revealed that a number of intelligence officers, both in the gendarmerie and the police department in Trabzon, knew about the plot to assassinate the journalist.
Dink was shot in İstanbul on Jan. 19, 2007. Samast, the hitman, was captured on a bus at the Samsun Bus Terminal, apparently while on his way back to his hometown, Trabzon, after committing the murder. He was later taken to the Samsun Police Department, where the two officers treated the occasion as a photo-op. They were initially charged with the violation of investigational confidentiality and abusing one’s authority, but the Samsun 4th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted the officers on the grounds of lack of evidence against them.
In its Thursday decision the Supreme Court of Appeals was reviewing an objection filed by the Dink family. Its overruling of the lower court’s verdict now paves the way for a new trial. Balta and Fırat face up to two years in prison, on charges of praising a crime and the offender.
Dink, a Turkish Armenian, was the editor-in-chief of the bilingual Agos weekly. His death is remembered as a watershed event in Turkey’s history of confronting shadow power holders in the background of the state, referred to as the deep state. The court that heard the murder trial found that Samast hadn’t acted alone, but it said there was no proof of organized crime either. However, this verdict is likely to be overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals, where it is currently under review. The prosecutor’s office of the high court has already recommended to overrule, citing evidence indicating the presence of an organized crime network behind the murder.