Thu, Jan 25, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Journalist's funeral draws huge crowd

UNITING THE DIVIDED The funeral of murdered Turkish journalist Hrant Dink brought over 100,000 Turks and Armenians together to grieve and denounce extremism

AP , ISTANBUL

A priest holds a picture of the slain journalist Hrant Dink during his funeral at Surp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchal chruch in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday. The editor of the Armenian and Turkish language Agos newspaper was killed as he left the offices of the newspaper on Friday afternoon.

PHOTO: EPA

More than 100,000 people marched in a funeral procession on Tuesday for a slain ethnic Armenian journalist who had angered Turkish nationalists, suggesting that the grieving for Hrant Dink may become a catalyst for liberal values and overcoming a century of antagonism between Turks and Armenians.

"We are all Armenians" chanted mourners in an extraordinary outpouring of affection for a journalist who had made enemies by calling the mass killings of Armenians toward the end of the Ottoman Empire genocide.

Dink was gunned down outside his newspaper Agos in broad daylight on Friday.

The murder triggered a period of intense introspection and touched off debate about excessive nationalism, free expression and the ability of Turks of different ethnic backgrounds to live together.

Throngs of mourners marched along the 8km route from the offices of Agos to an Armenian Orthodox church -- virtually shutting down the center of this massive city.

Many participants carried placards that read: "We are all Hrant Dinks."

Marchers took time off from work and school to join the procession, and thousands leaned out of their office windows to applaud, weep and throw flowers as the black hearse carrying Dink's body passed by.

Despite a request from his family not to turn the funeral into a protest, many also raised their fists at times shouting: "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism" and "Murderer 301" -- a reference to the freedom-curbing Turkish law that was used to prosecute Dink and others on charges of "insulting Turkishness."

The 52-year-old journalist's daughter, Sera, carrying a framed portrait of her father, wept as she walked in front of the coffin.

Dink, the editor of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper, sought to encourage reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.

But he chose a dangerous path by making public statements about the mass killings of Armenians by Turks in the early 20th century -- remarks that landed him in court and prompted death threats.

Comments on that tumultuous period of Turkish history have landed several of the country's most famous thinkers in court.

Police were questioning seven suspects, including a teenager, Ogun Samast, who authorities said has confessed to shooting Dink, and Yasin Hayal, a nationalist militant convicted in a 2004 bomb attack at a McDonald's restaurant.

Hayal has confessed to inciting the slaying and providing a gun and money to the teenager, according to police.

The suspects also include a university student who allegedly "inspired" the attack, Hurriyet newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Dink, one of the most important voices in Turkey's ethnic Armenian community, insisted he wanted reconciliation between the two peoples.

"I had no intention of insulting Turkishness," he said months before his death. "My only concern is to improve Armenian and Turkish relations."

He seemed to have achieved that to a certain extent in his death: Turkey has no diplomatic ties with Armenia but still invited Armenian officials and religious leaders as well as moderate members of the diaspora to the funeral. Armenia sent Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian.

The Armenian Orthodox Church sent US-based Bishop Khazkah Parsamian.

In an emotional speech to the crowd in front of the Agos office, Dink's wife, Rakel, called for a deeper search for answers to the killing.

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