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Cablegate: Opening Session of Dink Murder Trial

VZCZCXRO2082
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0577 1841045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031045Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7236
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000577

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV TU
SUBJECT: OPENING SESSION OF DINK MURDER TRIAL

REF: A. ANKARA 0144

B. ISTANBUL 0387

1. (SBU) Summary: The much anticipated trial of 18 suspects
in the January 19 murder of Turkish Armenian human rights
activist Hrant Dink (ref A) began on July 2 in a closed-court
session because the murder suspect is a minor. Following
accusations of police complicity in the murder and questions
about the conduct of the subsequent investigation, the case
is viewed by many observers as a litmus test for the
judiciary and Turkey's commitment to the rule of law, while
bringing international attention to the concept of a Turkish
"deep state." The trial continues October 1. End summary.

2. (SBU) The Hrant Dink murder trial began on July 2 at the
Istanbul 14th Penal Court in Besiktas. Amidst heavy security
(press reported more than 500 policemen), over 1,000
protesters gathered outside the courtroom, which was closed
to observers because one of the defendants -- suspected
gunman Ogun Samast -- is a minor (ref B). According to the
Dink family lawyer, the 12-hour hearing featured the
identification of plaintiffs and defendants along with their
opening statements. The court released four defendants and
gave procedural orders including demands for the presentation
of key evidence. The trial is set to convene again on
October 1.

3. (U) The case has drawn widespread attention, not only
because of Hrant Dink's high profile as a human rights
activist but also because of the intrigue and controversy
associated with the subsequent investigation which brought to
question government complicity in the failure to protect
Hrant Dink despite awareness of the threats against him. The
investigation also implicated a retired general and the
Trabzon leadership of the extreme nationalist Great Union
Party (BBP), and cost the jobs of Trabzon's governor and
chief of police who were removed from office on claims of
negligence and failure to perform their duties.

4. (U) Many observers view this trial as a test for the
judiciary. All sides claim undue influence on the
proceedings. Lawyers for the defense complained the
prosecutor was pressured into charging the defendants with
"gang membership" while attorneys for the Dink family have
appealed a government decision not to pursue a criminal
investigation into Istanbul Chief of Police Celalettin
Cerrah's statements immediately following the murder,
suggesting Samast acted alone.

5. (SBU) Comment: The Hrant Dink murder case joins the ranks
of the 2005 Semdinli bombing and the 1996 Susurluk incident
in putting the theory of a Turkish "deep state" on trial.
While the latter two cases played out largely before a
domestic audience, the Hrant Dink trial brings international
attention to the concept. We will continue to monitor this
case closely. End comment.
JONES

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