Turkish newspaper alleges cover-up in Hrant Dink case

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Radikal, a Turkish daily newspaper reported that some important tapped phone conversations of Erhan Tuncel, who has been singled out as the mastermind behind the assassination of Hrant Dink, prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist, on 19 January 2007 in Istanbul, have not been passed to the public prosecutors working on the Dink case.

According to the Radikal, just after the murder of H. Dink, Erhan Tuncel, who was a police informant received a call from a phone registered under the name of "Dilek B." However, Tuncel addresses the person on the phone as "Brother Memduh." Memduh was in reality one of the police officers who was keeping in contact with Tuncel. Concern have been raised that recordings of Tuncel's phone conversations on the day of the murder and two days after that have not been included in the file, while a recording of a 2006 phone conversation between Memduh and Tuncel is included.

It was reported that in 2005 the Trabzon police began monitoring the phone conversations of Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, who is the other planner and instigator of the Dink's killing in January 2007. It is now in the public knowledge that while Tuncel and Hayal planning the killing of Hrant Dink, their phone conversations had been tapped by the Trabzon police.

In the file of Hrant Dink murder, there are hundreds of pages of phone conversations between Erhan Tuncel and others. According to the documents in the file, Erhan Tuncel very often talked with phone numbers registered under name of different women, one of whom is "Dilek B." Erhan Tuncel talked with "Dilek B." on many occasions at the end of 2006, also on the day of murder (14.57 on January 19, 2007) at 16.43, 16.50 and 18.26. Tuncel was also called by "Dilek B." and talked with a male voice on the phone on January 20 and January 21. However, only one phone conversation from 2006 between Tuncel and "Dilek B." has been included in the file.

Erhan Tuncel in his statement, stated that he used the phone number of 0538 839 95 xx to talk with his contacts at the police. This number is registered under the name of "Dilek B." Moreover, 15 days prior to the killing Tuncel was phoned by an officer called Ahmet, a male, using a phone registered under the name of another woman, called Ayşe Bektaş. Tuncel stated that Ahmet was a police officer.

Trabzon police, between 2005 and 2007, recorded 5,025 phone conversations of Tuncel and 1,225 phone conversations of Hayal. However, when the public prosecutors in Istanbul asked for the transcriptions of these phone conversations, only 46 conversations of Tuncel and 17 conversations of Hayal were forwarded to them, and the rest of the conversations were excluded with a note in the file stating that they were deemed to be unimportant by the police.

The extent of the involvement of the various Turkish police and security services in the murder of Hrant Dink remains under scrutiny. The exclusion of phone conversations Tuncel with his contacts at the police is raising serious concerns about a cover up by the Trabzon police in order to hide their neglect, knowledge and involvement in the murder of Hrant Dink.

The court case against 19 men charged with involvement in the murder of Hrant Dink is to start on July 2 in Istanbul. Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal have been accused of inciting Ogun Samast, 17 years old ultra nationalist, to carry out the killing. The Public prosecutor is seeking life imprisonment for both Tuncel and Hayal, who are also facing charges of being senior members of an armed terrorist group.

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