by Joseph DeCaro
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (Worthy News)-- A prosecutor probing a possible link between the assassination of a Christian newspaper editor and the Malatya murders of Turkish Christians was abruptly transferred last week to another court.
A member of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, Usta was investigating the connection between the January 2007 murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and the Malatya massacre when two Turkish Christians were tortured to death in the Zirve publishing office three months later.
“This cannot be called a routine procedure, to remove a prosecutor wanting to intensify his appeals investigation,” Zirve plaintiff lawyer Erdal Dogan told Taraf news.
Dogan said that previous prosecutors trying to investigate the Dink and Zirve murders as well as the 2006 murder of Rev. Andrea Santoro were also suddenly transferred to other courts.
In September, the Turkish Justice Ministry removed two prosecutors and two judges on the Malatya case two days before hearings were to begin.
Last month, hearings were held on the latest indictment accusing 19 perpetrators of inciting five young suspects caught at the scene of the Malatya killings. On the first day of the hearings, retired Gen. Hursit Toron was called to the stand.
Toron, who was brought from the Silivri prison to testify in Malatya, also stands accused of terrorism against Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities.
Toron denied any involvement with the Malatya murders, claiming he never had any contact with the five suspects; he also discredited the testimony of star witness Ilker Cinar.
A former member of military law-enforcement, Cinar claimed he was on a clandestine mission to target Muslim converts to Christianity; his mission was to infiltrate Turkish Protestant communities and expose them as threats to national security.
Toron said Cinar’s testimony was only intended to discredit the reputation of the Turkish military and that Cinar’s own military career was marked by drunkenness and undisciplined behavior.
Although Toron initially denied visiting Malatya, documents revealed that he did visit the city on the day before the killings.
Other Turkish officers testified it wasn't illegal for them to gather information about the Zirve staff as well as the activities of other Protestant Christians because it was all done with the oversight of the Turkish state.