Istanbul, Oct 6 () - Suspects in the case into the beating of Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan have confessed that a former police officer offered them 100,000 Turkish Liras to attack the journalist after an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of just one suspect and the release of six others.
Retired police officer Yahya Kemal Gezer allegedly told suspects to organize the attack saying, “There is a man that needs to be beaten” Fuat Elmas, a suspect, said in testimony at the organized crime police department.
Elmas said they had received the instructions to attack Hakan during a meeting with Gezer at Rüzgar Café, which is also owned by Gezer in the Fatih district, on Sept. 23.
Elmas said he went to the café with Uğur Adıyaman, another suspect in the same case, where they were told by Gezer that “there is a man that needs to be beaten.”
“Gezer said the man was journalist Ahmet Hakan. ‘He [Hakan] calls martyrs as dead [people]. He says his vote is for the [People’s Democratic Party] HDP. He is instigating the people; he is encouraging people to vote for the HDP. He has to be taken out. The instructions will be given tonight. The [National Intelligence Organization] MİT is also involved. The police and the chief are also involved,’ said Gezer. He said we would be paid within a few days of completing the job,” Elmas reportedly told the police.
Kamuran Ergin, one of the seven suspects, said in his testimony that 100,000 liras were offered to them to stage the assault.
Promise of appointment as district head of the 'Ottoman Hearths'
“On the eve of the Eid holiday, Adıyaman came to my house along with Fuat Elmas. Ahmet Şengüler and two of my friends, Soner and Dehşet, also came to my house. Uğur told us that a man who identified himself as a police chief took him and Fuat to an abandoned house and told them that they had to beat a man named Ahmet Hakan and that they would be paid 100,000 liras in total and a man named Nezir would make arrangements for me to be appointed as the district head of the Ottoman Hearths group. Fuat and Ahmet accepted the offer. Soner and Dehşet did not accept it. I was under the effect of drugs and alcohol. I accepted because I needed money and we would only beat him,” said Ergin.
Six suspects were released and just one was arrested on Oct. 4 in the case, despite a public prosecutor’s efforts to arrest all seven suspects.
The court arrested Şengüler for “willful injury,” while releasing Ergin, Adıyaman and Elmas on probation until the trial is concluded.
The other suspects were released unconditionally.
Four men who attacked Hakan in Istanbul’s Nişantaşı neighborhood were detained early Oct. 1, the day of the incident. Their interrogation at police headquarters continued for four days, after which all suspects were sent to court at 9:45 a.m. on Oct. 4.
Three more alleged accessories to the beating were also detained and sent to court, while all seven suspects were questioned by public prosecutor Mehmet Şenay Baygın, who is responsible for terror and organized crime cases.
The seven suspects were sent to court with a demand for their arrest on the grounds of initiating an organization with the aims of committing crime, making threats, defamation and battery.
The newly added three suspects were identified as Soner A., Nezih Ö. and Gezer.
Gezer was reported to be a former member of a police special forces unit.
Hakan was attacked after weeks of threats made by pro-government media outlets.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also commented on the attack, saying his stance on press freedom “had not changed” since his time as prime minister. He defined his stance as “against violence” but added that it was “important for all media groups to show the same sensitivity against all kinds of violence on the press.”
“They shouldn’t say ‘I was burned’ only when they are attacked. They should also show the same sensitivity when others also encounter [such attacks],” he said on Oct. 4 in Istanbul before departing for a four-day journey to France, Belgium and Japan.
A day prior to Erdoğan’s statements, dozens of prominent journalists, including Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin, Hürriyet Daily News Editor-in-Chief Murat Yetkin, Hürriyet columnist Tufan Türenç, Hürriyet Digital Coordinator Bülent Mumay, Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and Cihan News Agency General Manager Abdulhamit Bilici joined a protest in Istanbul against the recent attacks on media outlets and members.
“From having issues about freedom of the press, we have arrived at a point where we aren’t even safe. We have serious concerns,” Press Council President Pınar Türenç said in a statement at the march Oct. 3, condemning recent threats and attacks.
Hürriyet’s Istanbul headquarters were pelted with stones by mobs on Sept. 6 and Sept. 8.
Abdurrahim Boynukalın, a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), participated in the first protest in front of the Hürriyet headquarters which turned violent. He was also filmed while threatening journalists, including Hakan and Ergin.
The violent assault targeting Hakan came days after the attacks on daily Hürriyet.
“We won’t abandon Turkey to these bandits and bullies. We are here to show it,” Ergin said after the Oct. 3 rally of journalists, stressing that similar rallies could be organized every Saturday if necessary.
A number of politicians from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also attended the rally.
“Those who cannot confront criticism with words resort to slander, lies and threats. And when slander is not enough, they resort to violence,” HDP deputy Garo Paylan said after the rally.