ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A retrial over the murder of a Turkish-Armenian journalist that triggered huge protest rallies in Turkey opened on Tuesday with demonstrators outside the court accusing authorities of covering up a conspiracy by nationalist elements in the state apparatus.
Hrant Dink, shot dead outside the office of his journal Agos in January 2007, had angered nationalists as a critic of government policies towards the country’s 60,000 Christian Armenians and its diplomatic standoff with neighboring Armenia.
He was repeatedly prosecuted for “insulting Turkishness”.
Around 200 demonstrators gathered outside the Istanbul court where eight defendants were being retried after an appeals court deemed they were part of a criminal conspiracy. This overturned an original court ruling that those convicted over Dink’s murder acted alone.
The crowd chanted “the murderer state will give account” and “we are all Hrant, we are all Armenians”, holding up banners in Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish. They see Dink as victim of a shadowy ‘deep state’ network of nationalist militants accused of killings of prominent liberals and Kurdish nationalists.
Dink’s family and his supporters reject the premise of the retrial that the defendants were part of a criminal conspiracy and argue that the state was involved in what amounted to a terrorist conspiracy.
“Who could have effectively conducted an investigation of a murder in which all bodies of the state were involved?” Dink’s family said in a letter published on the website of the Armenian Agos newspaper on Tuesday.
“We, the Dink family, will not attend the hearings of the murder trial which is beginning again and will not be exploited by a game of the state machinery which mocks us.”
The letter said the courts had failed to respond to the family’s request to investigate links to the case of people involved in the “Ergenekon” conspiracy to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
More than 200 people, including a former military chief and scores of other senior figures, were convicted in the Ergenekon case in August.
“This show must end, the real perpetrators must be brought to justice,” Gulten Kaya, the widow of well-known Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya, told reporters outside the court.
The murderer, Ogun Samast, was 17 at the time of the killing and was sentenced by a juvenile court to 23 years in prison in 2011. Last year Yasin Hayal was sentenced to life in jail for instigating the killing.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Hayal denied that he was involved in any criminal organization involved in the murder.
The case was adjourned to December 3.
Writing by Daren Butler; editing by Ralph Boulton