January 19, 2007

Amnesty International Condemns Murder of Hrant Dink

(Washington, DC) -- Amnesty International deplores the murder today of the prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The organization believes that he was targeted because of his work as a journalist who championed freedom of expression.

"This horrifying assassination silences one of Turkey's bravest human rights defenders," said Maureen Greenwood-Basken, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) Advocacy Director for Europe and Central Asia. "Writers put their lives on the line when they cover human rights violations, as the cases of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and now Hrant Dink, brutally illustrate.

"But legitimate debate about ideas must be protected. The Turkish government must redouble its efforts to protect human rights defenders and open its political climate to a range of views. Recent legal reforms have brought many areas of Turkish law in line with international human rights standards, but existing limitations on free speech such as Article 301 must be repealed.

"The U.S. government, as one of Turkey's closest allies, should push for a full and transparent investigation into Dink's murder."

AIUSA is a longstanding advocate of freedom of speech in Turkey and around the world. In an online action in October 2006, AIUSA activists sent thousands of messages urging repeal of Article 301.

Dink, editor of the newspaper Agos and contributor to the influential daily Zaman, was reportedly shot three times today in Istanbul outside the Agos offices. He was 53. Dink was a passionate promoter of the universality of human rights who appeared on different platforms with human rights activists, journalists and intellectuals across the political spectrum. Best known for his willingness to debate openly and critically issues of Armenian identity and official versions of history in Turkey relating to the massacres of Armenians in 1915, Dink also wrote widely on issues of democratization and human rights.

"In Turkey there are still a number of harsh laws which endorse the suppression of freedom of speech," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International. "These laws, coupled with the persisting official statements by senior government, state and military officials condemning critical debate and dissenting opinion, create an atmosphere in which violent attacks can take place."

Last year, Dink was prosecuted for the third time on charges of "denigrating Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Amnesty International called for the repeal of that law and condemned his prosecution as part of a pattern of judicial harassment against him for peacefully expressing his dissenting opinion. Dink had already been given a six-month suspended prison sentence in July 2006 following an October 2005 conviction on charges of "denigrating Turkishness."

Amnesty International calls on the Turkish authorities to condemn all forms of intolerance, to uphold the rights of all citizens of the Turkish Republic and to investigate Dink's murder thoroughly and impartially, to make the findings of the investigation public and to bring suspected perpetrators to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards.

For further information about Amnesty International's concerns regarding Article 301 please see Turkey: Article 301: How the law on "denigrating Turkishness" is an insult to free expression.


Contact: Jason Opeña Disterhoft, (202) 544-0200 x302