20 Years for Murder, 28 Years for Book on Murder


Nedim Sener

ISTANBUL (Hurriyet) — More than two years after Agos editor Hrant Dink was shot dead, a reporter stands trial for writing about the circumstances surrounding the murder. For his alleged crimes, he faces 28 years in prison, eight years more than what the murder suspect would serve if convicted.

A reporter who wrote a book about the intelligence failures before and after the murder of Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian weekly Agos, is facing a prison term of 28 years if found guilty. The chief suspect in the murder case could serve a maximum of 20 years if convicted.

Milliyet daily reporter Nedim Sener’s book, The Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies, focuses on the intelligence deficiencies by security agencies before and after Dink was shot dead, leading to a police officer and three senior Police Department intelligence chiefs filing complaints against him.

Dink, who was prosecuted for insulting Turkishness, was killed in front of the Agos office. The chief suspect, a teenage nationalist, is currently on trial along with several alleged accomplices.

Milliyet daily reported that the complaints have led the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office to charge Sener with publication of secret information and turning antiterrorism officials into targets. The reporter faces a maximum prison term of 28 years if found guilty.

Sener, speaking to Anatolia news agency on his way to the opening hearing this week, said he is facing a total of 28 years in prison if convicted on two charges, obtaining classified documents and insulting government officials.

Sener has two trials pending as a result of the complaints. This trial at the Istanbul Second Court was for revealing official secrets. Sener, who faces up to eight years in jail on this charge, defended himself by saying that the information in his book was from phone conversations that were made public in the media months before his book was printed. “These conversations are also on the Internet and can be found when one searches Google,” he said.

Sener said the trial aimed to prevent the public from learning the facts about Dink’s murder and the status of press freedom. He asked the court to find him not guilty. The judge decided to postpone the trial to another date in order for the defendant’s lawyers to prepare for the prosecutor’s case.

Milliyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin told the Anatolia news agency that his presence at court was to support not only Sener but also press freedom in Turkey.

“We are showing this solidarity in order to ensure press freedom in respected,” he said.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association, or TGC, released a statement on the case, saying it was “worrying” and a problem for democracy. It said it was necessary to reassess a law that prosecuted a journalist for trying to uncover the facts behind Dink’s murder, reported Milliyet. “Expert journalists like Nedim Sener uncovering crimes and making the facts public is a service to address the public’s anger about such crimes,” said the TGC. On the issue, Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review’s Editor-in-Chief David Judson said: “Institutions of free expression and individuals expressing themselves freely have collectively made great strides in recent years. That some institutions of the state lag behind in understanding the nature of these important democratic concepts in unfortunate. But we are confident at the Daily News that they will mature along with the rest of society.”

After the book’s release in January of this year, Muhittin Zenit, a police officer working at the intelligence division at Trabzon when Dink was assassinated, filed a criminal complaint about Sener for “targeting personnel in service of fighting terrorism, obtaining secret documents, disclosing secret documents, violating the secrecy of  communication and attempting to influence fair trial” through his book.

Case for Other Accusations

At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor Selim Berna Altay charged Sener with “making targets of the personnel in service of fighting terrorism, and obtaining and declaring secret information that is forbidden to be declared,” asking for a prison term of 20 years.

Since they do not fall under his authority, Altay sent the dossier on “violation of the secrecy of communication” and “attempting to influence fair trial” to the Istanbul Second Court. In the meantime, it was also claimed the book contained the offense of “insulting governmental institutions,” and that too was added to the second investigation. Prosecutor Ismail Onaran handled this investigation and filed a second case against Sener asking for his imprisonment for three to eight years.

There is another case ongoing in a Trabzon court against eight personnel from the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command who are accused of neglecting their duties regarding Dink’s death. The accused are facing up to two years in prison if found guilty.

“Some of the security personnel that sued me are under investigation for neglecting their duty for Dink’s murder. They want to punish the journalist writing about the responsibilities of those people,” said Sener.