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Thousands Mourn Slain Turkish-Armenian Journalist

Mourners in Istanbul today (epa) January 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of mourners have gathered in central Istanbul to pay their last respects to Hrant Dink, the Turkish journalist of Armenian origin who was shot dead last week.

"We are all Hrant Dink" and "We are all Armenians" -- those are some of the signs held up by the thousands of mourners gathered beneath the offices of Dink's "Agos" newspaper in central Istanbul.

The crowd broke into spontaneous applause as the coffin carrying the journalist's body arrived below the office, where Dink was shot three times as he left work on January 19.

"I think that this crowd means that Turkey was shot in its heart," one unidentified Turkish man told journalists.

Dink was well-known in Turkey for his outspoken views and had been convicted in 2005 for "insulting Turkishness" by saying the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century amounted to genocide.

The black-clad mourners are proceeding on a silent, 8-kilometer march to the funeral service at Istanbul's Armenian Orthodox Church.

Freedom Of Expression

Although top politicians and military officers have snubbed the funeral, Dink's killing shocked Turkey and refocused attention there on the fragile state of freedom of expression. Turkey, already in an uphill bid to join the European Union, now faces even more pressure to show Brussels that its reforms remain on track.

"I think that this crowd means that Turkey was shot in its heart," one unidentified Turkish man told journalists today. "We are all Armenian today. That gunshot hit the whole of Turkey, not only an Armenian."

Turkey has no diplomatic ties with Armenia, but in death Dink appears to have helped break the ice -- at least, that is, for his funeral.

Armenian Representatives

Turkey invited Armenian officials and religious leaders as well as moderate members of the Armenian diaspora to the funeral. Armenia sent Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian. Hajak Barsamyan, head of the Armenian Church in New York, is also expected to attend.

In Yerevan, meanwhile, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports that hundreds of people gathered today in the city's main Azatutyun Square to remember Dink. Authorities in the Armenian capital organized the rally.

Police are questioning seven suspects, including 17-year-old Ogun Samast, who they say has confessed to shooting Dink. Reports suggest that while Samast was an extreme nationalist, he had no direct links to extremist groups.

Examining History

Examining History

CALL IT GENOCIDE? Questions surrounding the mass killings of Armenians at the beginning of the last century continue to dominate relations between Armenia and Turkey. In April, Ankara proposed conducting a joint Armenian-Turkish investigation into the mass killings and deportations of Armenians during World War I.
Turkish leaders suggested that the two countries set up a joint commission of historians to determine whether the massacres carried out between 1915 and 1917 constituted genocide. Armenia, however, insisted it would continue to seek international recognition and condemnation of what it says was a deliberate attempt at exterminating an entire people....(more)

See also:

Armenians Mark 90th Anniversary Of Start Of Massacres

Armenia: Tragedy Remains On Europe’s Political Map

ARCHIVE: For a complete archive of RFE/RL's coverage of Armenia, click here.