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Ex-Police Chiefs Jailed For Murder Of Turkish-Armenian Journalist


Hrant Dink was a vocal proponent of better ties between Turkey and Armenia, but had been convicted for writing about the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I.

An Istanbul court has handed life sentences to two former Turkish police commanders and two top ex-security officers over the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink 14 years ago.

Dink was gunned down in broad daylight on January 19, 2007, outside the Istanbul offices of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper, where he was the editor. He was 53.

Dink had been an arduous proponent of reconciliation between Armenians and Turks and was repeatedly prosecuted for insulting "Turkishness" over his comments on Armenian identity and the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

After his killing, tens of thousands of people gathered in central Istanbul to mourn.

Seventy-six suspects were facing charges including failing to uncover the plot to kill Dink.

Istanbul's main court on March 26 sentenced the city's former police intelligence chief, Ramazan Akyurek, and his former deputy, Ali Fuat Yilmazer, to life in prison for "premeditated murder," Agos reported.

Former top Interior Ministry officers Yavuz Karakaya and Muharrem Demirkale were also sentenced to life in prison.

In 2012, ultranationalist sympathizer Ogun Samast, who was 17 at the time of the killing, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for Dink's killing.

Ali Oz, a former Interior Ministry commander of the Black Sea region of Trabzon where Samast came from, was sentenced to 28 years in prison on March 26.

Charges against another top Istanbul police chief were dropped due to the statute of limitation.

However, Dink's supporters and human rights activists say the most senior police officials have gone unpunished and want the investigation and trials to continue.

"Some of those responsible for this assassination, including the sponsors, have still not been prosecuted," said Erol Onderoglu, the representative in Turkey for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who has closely followed the trial.

"This partial justice rendered after 14 years leaves a bitter taste and should not mark the end of the search for the truth."

The accused in the protracted trial included U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. Gulen has lived in the United States since 1999 and denies any involvement in the failed coup.

The Istanbul court on March 26 ruled that Dink's murder was committed "in line with the objectives of Feto" -- an acronym Ankara uses for Gulen's banned movement, Turkey's NTV reported.

Turkey claims Gulen's network had widely infiltrated the country's police and other state institutions over decades.

The court did not rule on the case of Gulen and 12 other fugitives and instead separated their cases.

Dink had pushed for reconciliation between Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks and had been prosecuted repeatedly for insulting "Turkishness" with his comments on Armenian identity and the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

During and immediately after World War I, as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed or deported from Anatolia. Many historians, Armenia, and more than 30 countries consider the killings to be genocide.

As the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey objects to the use of the word genocide.

Ankara says that about 500,000 Armenians died as a result of civil strife, disease, and starvation rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate them. Turkey also asserts that hundreds of thousands of Muslims died in Anatolia at the time due to combat, starvation, cold, and disease.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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