The German presidency of the European Union said Saturday it was shocked and appalled by the murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Turkey.
A Turkish man lights candles in front of a picture of slain journalist Hrant Dink
Referring to the 53-year-old as a "respected" journalist, the EU presidency statement said Dink was a "courageous man whose journalism was marked by his strong commitment to democracy and freedom of expression."
Journalist Hrant Dink was a critic of Turkey's official line on the massacre of Armenians
It also said Dink, who was gunned down outside the offices of the newspaper he edited in Istanbul on Friday, was prepared to take great personal risks for his work.
"He always strove to present a balanced picture and avoided provoking confrontations. He staunchly supported the democratic reforms in Turkey," the EU presidency statement said.
"As a result, Hrant Dink was held in high esteem in various sections of Turkish society, as well as in Europe."
Turkey promises to find murderer
The Turkish government vowed Saturday that it would do "whatever it takes" to find and punish the murderer as it came under fire for failing to protect Dink despite nationalist threats.
"The perpetrators will not escape justice," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a political function in Kizilcahamam, near Ankara.
"The authorities will do whatever it takes to bring to justice the perpetrator, those who planned the murder or instigated it," he said.
Hundreds of demonstrators in Istanbul protested the killing
Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu, personally overseeing the investigation in Istanbul, said all three people detained in connection with Friday's murder had been released, Anatolia news agency reported. The agency had earlier said that a total of eight people were questioned.
Dink, the editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, was shot three times in the head and neck outside the newspaper's office in downtown Istanbul, sending shock waves throughout the country.
"We are very close to solving the case. We have definitive evidence," Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler told reporters late Friday.
Journalist had received threats
Dink was one of the taboo-breaking critics of the official line on the mass massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I and was last year given a suspended six-month jail sentence for insulting "Turkishness."
Dink was convicted under the infamous Article 301 of the penal code, which has served as a ground to prosecute a series of other intellectuals, including 2006 Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk, and which the EU has denounced a threat to free speech in the EU-hopeful country.
Famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk also faced charges for insulting "Turkishness"
Nationalists had labeled him a "traitor" and Dink had spoken of receiving threats and hate mail.
Despite the controversies, the soft-spoken and often emotional Dink had won many hearts in Turkey as a sincere activist for Turkish-Armenian dialogue, who denounced also Armenian radicalism and most recently, a French bill in October to jail those who deny that the 1915-17 killings of Armenians constituted genocide.
He will be laid to rest on Tuesday, his colleagues said.
"Murderer is a traitor"
The Turkish press piled pressure on the government to solve the murder, condemning it as a "national shame" and lashing out at the authorities for having failed to ensure protection for a man who openly wrote in his articles in Agos that he was receiving threats.
"Not protecting people who are under threat amounts to paving the way for those who want to kill them," liberal daily Radikal wrote.
"The murderer is a traitor," declared mass-circulation Hurriyet on its front page Saturday, while the popular Sabah headlined: "The greatest treason."
The police, reportedly looking for a young man, wearing a denim jacket and a white cap who was seen running from the scene, were examining footage from security cameras of nearby shops.
Damage to Turkey's image
Some commentators saw serious implications for Turkish foreign policy, with the popular Vatan newspaper stressing that Armenian campaigns for an international recognition of the 1915-17 massacres as genocide would gain strength.
"This incident also plays into the hands of those who want to cut Turkey's ties with the West and block its accession to the European Union," Vatan columnist Okay Gonensin added.