Saturday, January 19, 2008

Questions remain in Fuat Deniz killing

Swedish police made an arrest Thursday in the Dec. 11 murder of Fuat Deniz, an Örebro University professor whose research focused on the genocide carried out by Turkish, Kurdish and Arab Muslims of the Ottoman Empire against that empire’s Assyrian Christian minority during the early years of the last century. The suspect is the 42-year-old first cousin of the slain academic, with whom, according to Swedish police, he had been embroiled in a personal conflict. A police official has repeatedly declared that there was “no political conflict” involved in the crime.

Your correspondent’s suspicions that the opposite is true, based on several indicators set forth here, should ostensibly be allayed. While I am perfectly willing to acknowledge having been misled by said indicators if such should prove to be the case, at this point too many questions remain unanswered for me to do so in good conscience. Among these are:

* What was the nature of the conflict between the two first cousins?

* How is it that Fuat Deniz immigrated in childhood to Sweden from Turkey, while the son of his father’s brother did so 20 years ago from Syria?

* Is Fuat’s cousin an Assyrian Christian as he was, or is he an adherent to some other creed?

* Why are the negotiations that led to the suspect’s arrest being kept from the public?

* Why is the suspect’s attorney under an official gag order?

* Why has the police information manager (nice title, that) repeatedly assured the public that “the political motive is no longer valid” in this case, while offering no basis for this assertion?

* Why, if the suspect “actually wanted to tell the police what he had done, and therefore phoned the police after the knife-cutting,” has it taken more than a month to take him into custody? Didn’t the police consider that there might be a risk of flight?

* Why, if it has been known for a month that “the political motive [was] no longer valid,” have Swedish authorities let Fuat Deniz’s colleagues, several of whom have told of threats related to their work in his field, live in fear for their lives?

* Why has the Assyrian diaspora worldwide been left for a month to dread that Fuat Deniz had been the victim of what a senior Assyrian clergyman called “dark powers that want to hurt our people” – a clear reference to Turkish Islamists of the sort that assassinated newspaper editor Hrant Dink in Istanbul a year ago today?

The conduct of Swedish authorities in this case may be politely be described as rather less than heroic. If they would dispel continuing apprehensions that there is more to the murder of Fuat Deniz than a family feud, let them address the questions raised above.

In the meantime, let us bear in mind the sentiments of General George Patton: Rather than regretting that such a man died, let us rejoice that such a man lived. And let us not only cherish Fuat's memory but advance his important work, and ensure that the true history of the Assyrian genocide is not buried in obscurity, as the "dark powers" of whom Mor Polycarpus Augin spoke at his memorial service in the Netherlands in December so cruelly desire. It is my hope that his books may one day be translated and published in the English-speaking world.

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