Have you ever heard of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yüksel and Christian Tilmann Geske? Small chance you have, bigger chance you haven’t. They are three Christians (two Turkish, one German) who were brutally tortured and murdered in the East-Turkish city of Malatya in April 2007. This Monday, the court case against the killers and accomplices will resume. The murder is in many ways similar to the murder of Hrant Dink, a few months earlier in 2007. For Hrant, thousands took to the streets with good reason to scream out for justice. No such thing will happen on Monday for Necati, Ugur and Christian. Nobody knew their names before their deaths, nobody came to know them afterwards. I wonder: will their anonymity influence the court case?
I don’t necessarily say it’s a bad thing that no crowds will take to the streets on Monday. In the end, of course, it’s not about how many people cry out for justice, it’s about whether or not justice is done.
Like I said, the Malatya murders and the murder of Hrant Dink are in many ways similar. Both Dink and the three Malatya victims belonged to groups that are deeply mistrusted throughout Turkish society: Armenians – the group to which Dink belonged – have always been considered ‘traitors’, Christians have always been considered part of a foreign conspiracy aiming to weaken Turkey. The murders were carried out by young nationalists, but it was clear from the very beginning they were not acting alone, but were pushed by others to kill and that they were protected by the state after they committed the crime.
Also, the court cases can be easily compared: they are mainly aiming at the ones who carried out the murders, not at the accomplices or the ones protecting them. For some time, it seemed the Malatya murder case was going in the right direction because the prosecutor was willing to dig deeper, but he was suddenly taken off the case – one may wonder why, of course. This Monday, most probably anew indictment will be ready, and then it will be clear if the new prosecutor is willing to connect the case to (part of the) Ergenekon case. Both the Dink case and the Malatya case are believed to have been carried out by Ergenekon, part of the ‘deep state’ that will do anything to protect the state.
The Dink murder, the Malatya murders and the Santoro murder (he was a Roman Catholic priest who was murdered in the North-Turkish city of Trabzon in 2006, which is also the home town of the killer of Hrant Dink) are believed to be the last murders carried out by the deep state – the Ergenekon investigations started soon after the Malatya murders, and then the killings stopped.
So you can say that the way the murders are handled in court says something about how much the deep state is still keeping a firm grip on state institutions, like the judiciary. In the Santoro case, the 16 year old murderer was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment soon after the assassination in 2006, for the rest no probe was carried out, even though there were leads that he didn’t act on his own. In the Dink case, nobody dared or wanted to make the case much bigger than the actual murderer and the man inciting him to kill. Despite the overwhelming demand for justice from thousands and thousands of people. Or because of the public outcry? I do wonder if the judiciary is even more afraid to ‘give in’ to demands for justice when they are so loudly heard, and while the whole nation is watching the system closely.
The Malatya murders are less high profile. Monday, most probably a new indictment will be read. It will make clear to what extent the prosecutor will widen the case beyond the five main suspects. The lawyers of the victims’ families are hopeful, I heard. Will the prosecutors dare to be brave, now that they are watched less closely, now that not tens of thousands are protesting, now that they are handling the case of three anonymous Christians instead of a (posthumous) famous Armenian?
If you have any thoughts about the influence of publicity attracted by a case on the prosecutors’ braveness: the reaction field is open!