Several thousand people gathered Tuesday at the site in Istanbul where Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was gunned down nine years ago, recalling a notorious killing that only recently led to charges against Turkey’s security forces, Agence France-Presse reports.
The crowd — estimated at around 2,000 people according to an AFP journalist — marched to the offices of the bilingual Agos weekly in downtown Istanbul where Dink was editor-in-chief.
With Turkish riot police out in force, the crowd chanted anti-government slogans: “Murderer state will account for this,” “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism.”
“We are all Hrant Dink,” “We are all Armenians” read black-and-white placards written in Armenian on one side and Turkish on the other.
“We won’t forget, we won’t forgive” read another at the memorial rally that has become an annual event since the murder of Dink on January 19, 2007.
Dink, 52, was shot dead with two bullets in the back of the head in by a teenage ultranationalist in broad daylight on a busy street outside Agos, but questions still linger about the circumstances of his death.
Ogun Samast, then a 17-year-old jobless high-school dropout, confessed to the murder and was sentenced to nearly 23 years in jail in 2011.
Dink’s assassination sent shockwaves through Turkey and grew into a wider scandal after it emerged that the security forces had known of the murder plot, but failed to act.
An Istanbul court last month finally accepted an indictment against 25 public officials, including former police and intelligence chiefs, on charges of “forming a criminal organisation,” as well as voluntary manslaughter and negligence.
The accused, including former Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah, may face a trial.
Every year since Dink’s murder thousands have rallied to remember the journalist, whose life-long campaign for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians won him as many enemies as admirers.
Turkish nationalists especially resented that he qualified the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman empire, the precursor of modern Turkey, as a genocide, a term Ankara has always rejected.
Almost a decade after Dink’s death, activists express growing alarm over the limits on freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Prosecutors last week began a vast investigation into over 1,200 academics for engaging in “terrorist propaganda” by signing a petition condemning the military crackdown in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.
Memorial rallies were also held in Ankara as well as Armenian capital of Yerevan and a few European cities on Tuesday.