ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)– Thousands of grief-stricken supporters marked the first anniversary of the killing of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist gunned down in Istanbul last year after criticizing mass killings ofÂ predominantly Christian Armenians by Ottoman Turks and Kurds in the 1915-1917 period.
Demonstrators, many holding black-and-white placards reading: “For Hrant, for justice”, in Turkish, Armenian and other languages, expressed frustration Saturday, January 19, that the trial of those allegedly involved in the murder is taking place behind closed doors because the apparent gunman is a minor.
A total of 19 suspects are on trial, however human rights group Amnesty International has urged Turkey to widen the investigation into his death amid reports of alleged complicity of security officials.
Dink said before his death he had received a number of death threats over his writings. His work also brought him a suspended 6-month jail sentence under Turkey’s article 301,
a law that makes it a crime to insult Turkish identity. The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, has expressed concerns about the legislation.
In published remarks, Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said that work on changes to the infamous Article 301 has been completed and that a proposed amendment to the legislation will be submitted to Parliament for debate.
Dink was convicted for an article he penned in the minority newspaper Agos expressing his views on the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans since 1915. Up to 1.5 million Armenians, Assyrians and Hellenic Christians were killed in the 1915-1917 genocide, according to at least a dozen countries. Turkey has both denied these figures or involvement by Turkish Ottoman in mass murder and refuses to recognize that “genocide” took place.
Dink, who was the editor of Agos, was shot outside his office on January 19, 2007, allegedly by a hard-line nationalist teenager opposing his views. His killing led to
international condemnation and debate within Turkey about free speech. “We are at the pavement where they tried to clean his blood with soap,” Dink’s wife Rakel said in a speech from the office balcony. “You are here for justice today. A scream for justice rises from your silence.” The crowd held a minute’s silence at mark the moment when Dink was shot.
A religious ceremony was to be held in the Armenian Church of Mother Mary on Sunday, January 20, to commemorate Dink. His widow, Rakel, daughters, Sera and Delal, son Ararat, his brother, Orhan Dink, and other officials and representatives of Istanbulâ€™s tiny Armenian community were to attend the service. Dinks’ murder added to concerns about attacks against Christians in Turkey.
At least five Christians were killed and several others injured in attacks within the last two years.
The European Union has complained that Turkey, an EU applicant, fails to fully protect the religious freedoms of its tiny Christian minority, which numbers some 100,000 in a predominantly Muslim population of nearly 75 million people. (With BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).