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Locals mourn editor

Hrant Dink, shot to death in Turkey, visited Glendale in November and made many friends.

January 20, 2007|By Anthony Kim

GLENDALE — The local Armenian American population mourned the loss Friday of Hrant Dink.

Dink, an outspoken Armenian journalist who faced constant threats and intimidation in his home in Turkey, was shot dead on Friday outside of his newspaper's building.

Dink, 53, was the editor of the bilingual Armenian and Turkish newspaper Agos, which was one of the most prominent voices for Turkey's small Armenian population, according to reports.

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The journalist was convicted in October 2005 of inciting racial tension and denouncing a Turkish historical figure in one of his newspaper's articles. He was given a six-month sentence and was awaiting another trial scheduled for March.

In November, Dink visited Glendale, which has the largest population of Armenians in the United States, as part of a country-wide speaking tour. Senior Assistant City Atty. Lucy Varpetian accompanied Dink around Glendale and helped coordinate his meetings while he was here.

"He was just an amazing person," Varpetian said.

"He knew what his fate was yet he didn't shy away from it. He believed in a higher cause and part of that was freedom of thought and freedom of speech. He believed Turkey would get there…. He didn't like the attention he was receiving. But he thought the work he was doing was important and if he had to get out of his comfort zone it was important enough for him to do."

Dink spent some time in Abril Bookstore on Broadway, where he chatted with customers at length about various topics, said Harout Yeretzian, owner of the Armenian bookstore.

"He was a very nice guy," Yeretzian said.

"He knew that something like this would happen to him. He was talking about his children and his wife, asking them to leave Turkey. And they said, 'No, we are going to stay with you no matter what happens.' He knew something was going to happen. He was a very brave man, very brave."

Police Chief Randy Adams, Officer John Balian and Councilmen Ara Najarian and Rafi Manoukian discussed crime and politics with the journalist during in a meeting during his visit.

"He was proud of the diaspora forming outside of Armenia," Balian said. "Coming to America, I think he was proud to see Armenians holding various positions…. it's not easy to come and learn new culture, new language and new laws."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said top officials would investigate the killing and that two unnamed suspects were arrested for the crime, according to news reports.

A candle-light vigil was scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church in Burbank.

Members of the Armenian American community will also condemn the murder of the journalist at the Los Angeles Consulate of the Republic of Turkey in Los Angeles at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

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