ISTANBUL—A prosecutor in the case for the 19 suspects accused of inciting brutal 2007 murders of three Christians in Matalya, Turkey, has been removed from High Council duty, stalling the country's long-running trials—again.
Prosecutor Hikmet Usta was probing links between the Malatya murders of three Christians and the earlier assassination of a Christian newspaper editor when he was abruptly transferred from his position last week and re-assigned prosecution duties in an Istanbul court. Usta had been preparing objections to the verdict of the Turkish Supreme Court that "no illegal group" had been behind the January 2007 murder of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
"There was an illegal group, and there is evidence," Usta protested to the Turkish media.
As a member of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, Usta was investigating the connections between Dink's murder and the Malatya massacre, in which two Turkish Christians and a German citizen were tortured and stabbed to death in the Zirve Christian publishing house office on April 18, 2007.
"This cannot be called a 'routine' procedure, to remove a prosecutor wanting to intensify his appeals investigation," Erdal Dogan, a plaintiff lawyer for Zirve, told Taraf newspaper on Dec. 2.
But this is not the first time prosecutors trying to uncover the real perpetrators behind the Dink and Zirve murders have been removed from their duties, notes Dogan.
In September, the Turkish Justice Ministry removed two prosecutors and two judges who had been trying the Malatya case just two days before a week of hearings on the case was to begin. The sudden changes left only the presiding judge familiar with ...1