I have been slow in commenting on the outrageous murder of Hrant Dink, and for that I must apologise.  It was a terrible crime, and unfortunately only too representative of the state of modern Turkey.  The murder is the unfortunately all-too-logical outcome of the absurd and dreadful charges brought against Mr. Dink by the Turkish state for his alleged “insult” to “Turkishness.”  For some background, I cite from the Armeniapedia entry on Mr. Dink:

Dink wrote a series of articles in which he called on diaspora Armenians to stop focusing on the Turks and focus instead on the welfare of Armenia, said Karin Karakaþlý, an editor at Agos newspaper. Karakaþlý said Dink told Armenians their enmity toward the Turks “has a poisoning effect in your blood.” She said the court took the article out of context, wrongly assuming it meant that Turkish blood is poison.

On October 7, 2005 Hrant Dink was convicted under article 301 of the penal code of insulting Turkishness, charges that Dink said he would fight, adding that he would leave the country if they were not overturned. He was convicted and given a six-month suspended sentence, which means he will not be forced to serve prison time unless he repeats the offense. Dink has lived in Turkey all his life and was shown on television in tears as he denied the charges and vowed to fight them.

“I’m living together with Turks in this country,” Dink told The Associated Press. “And I’m in complete solidarity with them. I don’t think I could live with an identity of having insulted them in this country.”

The court said Dink’s article “was not an expression of opinion with the aim of criticizing but was intended to be insulting and offensive.”

Dink, speaking in Turkish, said the sentence was an attempt to silence him.

The assassin, who has now confessed to his crime, admitted to being motivated by the alleged “insult” to Turks and did silence him.  In a way slightly similar to the fate of Pim Fortuyn, Mr. Dink was officially vilified by the government authorities and made an object of hate in his own country based on false and obviously politically motivated charges.  Within two years of the official hate campaign against the man, he had been shot dead by some fanatic who actually took seriously the government’s claims made in service of its cynical control over its citizens’ statements.  The persistent official denial of the Armenian genocide instituted and maintained by the Turkish state has now contributed to a new murder of an Armenian dissident.  Like another April 24, a leading Turkish-Armenian intellectual has died at the hands of a Turkish nationalist thug.  If Turkey were at all serious about becoming a liberal or genuinely Westernised country, its authorities would either scrap or cease to enforce the dreadful section of the law that precipitated this awful deed.

PM Erdogan’s rush to denounce the crime is as predictable as it is cynical.  He laments that the assassination was an attack on Turkish freedom and democracy, yet the hateful charges against Mr. Dink would never have been brought and would never have existed to spur the assassin on to his horrible deed had there actually been real freedom of speech in Turkey.  His government and the entire apparatus of genocide denial in Turkey are effectively guilty as accomplices in this crime.  If anyone needed another good reason why Turkey should be kept out of the European Union, this is it.