New York, NY, January 19, 2007PEN, the international association of writers, is appalled by the news of the murder today of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

“We are horrified,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write andInternational Programs at PEN American Center. “Hrant Dink was one ofthe heroes of the nonviolent movement for freedom of expression inTurkey—a movement in which writers, editors, and publishers havepracticed civil disobedience by defying laws that censored orsuppressed important truths in that country. Theirs is one of the mostsignificant human rights movements of our time. Hrant Dink’s countrymencan help cement some of the gains he helped win for them by sending astrong, unified message that those responsible must be brought tojustice for his murder.”

Dink, one of the most prominent ethnic Armenians in Turkey, was editor-in-chief of the Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper Agos, a paper that seeks to provide a voice to the Armenian community and create a dialogue between Turks and Armenians. He was also a well-known commentator on Armenian affairs. In July 2006, Dink was handed a six-month suspended sentence for insulting Turkishness after writing an article which called for Armenians to “now turn their attention to the new life offered by an independent Armenia.” A week later, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor opened a new case against Dink for referring to the 1915 massacre of Armenians as a “genocide” during a July 14 interview with Reuters. Dink was awaiting his next trial for these charges at the time of his death.

Just before his assassination, Dink had complained of death threats he was receiving from nationalists.Early reports note that Dink was shot four times by a young man who appeared to be 18 or 19 years old. Police in riot gear surrounded Dink’s office in downtown Istanbul. Forensic teams were combing the pavement outside for clues to the murder.

During the past 24 months, PEN has followed over 60 cases of writers, journalists, and publishers who were brought before courts or faced prosecution for their writings. Around 15 of these are currently facing charges similar to those levied against Hrant Dink. Some recent notable cases include that of Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel laureate charged with insulting Turkishness for a comment published in a Swiss newspaper in 2005 in which he was quoted as saying that “thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it,” Turkish prosecutors later decided not to proceed with a court case against him; five journalists who were accused of “interfering” with the judiciary for their comments on attempts to ban a conference; and publisher Abdullah Yilmaz, who faces trial for issuing a Turkish edition of Greek writer Mara Meimaridi’s novel The Witches of Smyrna. Scenes in that book describing parts of the Turkish quarter of Izmir as dirty have triggered charges of “denigrating Turkish national identity.”

Jiri Grusa, International President of International PEN, the world association of writers, called the murder “a symptom of old hatreds that threaten the relationship of all Turkish people to the democratic values shared in Europe and the world.” PEN calls upon the Turkish government to do all in its power to apprehend Dink’s killer.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105