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Last Updated: Monday, 2 July 2007, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Dink murder trial opens in Turkey
Hrant Dink, in November 2006
Hrant Dink was one of Turkey's most prominent Armenian voices
The trial of 18 people charged in connection with the murder of prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink has opened in the city of Istanbul.

Mr Dink, 53, was gunned down outside his newspaper's office in Istanbul in January. His murder triggered anger and shock across Turkey.

Unemployed teenager Ogun Samast is accused of carrying out the shooting. Prosecutors say he has confessed.

The trial is closed to the public because Mr Samast is a minor.

Hrant Dink's murder trial is a critical test of the Turkish judiciary's independence
Human Rights Watch

At least 1,000 protesters - including Mr Dink's wife Rakel - gathered outside the courthouse in central Istanbul, demanding justice.

"We are all Hrant Dink. We are all Armenians," the demonstrators chanted.

Mr Dink was well-known for writing articles about the mass killing of Armenians by Turks in 1915 - a very controversial issue in Turkey.

He was a hate figure for hard-line nationalists and had received multiple death threats.

'Critical test'

Seventeen-year-old Mr Samast, from the town of Trabzon, was known to have links to nationalists. He faces a lengthy jail sentence if convicted.

Suspect Ogun Samast (left). File photo
Ogun Samast has reportedly confessed to killing Mr Dink

Two of the other 17 defendants, Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel, are accused of leading a nationalist group and ordering the murder.

But some critics say that the investigation has not gone far enough, alleging links between nationalists and some elements of the security forces, and accusing police of failing to properly investigate reports of a plot to kill Mr Dink.

A lawyer for Mr Dink's family criticised the fact that unnamed security officials were not in the dock.

"This despite the established fact that they had links with the suspects, failed in their duty, concealed evidence and even sought to vindicate the murder and the murderer," Fethiye Cetin said.

After Mr Dink was killed, video footage emerged showing Mr Samast posing with police and the national flag after his arrest. One newspaper suggesting the teenager was treated like a hero.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said that the trial was a "critical test of the Turkish judiciary's independence".

"The Turkish judiciary must hold accountable any security forces responsible for negligence or collusion in the murder," it said.

Mr Dink's death threw a spotlight on issues of free speech and nationalism in Turkey.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

Armenians have campaigned for the killings to be recognised internationally as genocide - and some countries have done so.

Turkey admits that many Armenians were killed but it denies any genocide, saying the deaths happened during widespread fighting in World War I.


SEE ALSO
Turkey's nationalist hotbed
01 Mar 07 |  Europe
Officer suspended in Dink probe
06 Feb 07 |  Europe
Q&A: Armenian 'genocide'
12 Oct 06 |  Europe
Obituary: Hrant Dink
19 Jan 07 |  Europe



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