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Murder of a Journalist

DW staff / AFP (sp)January 21, 2007

A 17-year-old Turkish boy has confessed to the killing of prominent Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink which triggered outrage in Turkey as well as the European Union.

Turkish demonstrators hold pictures of slain journalist Hrant Dink during a protest in IstanbulImage: AP

The suspect, Ogun Samast, a jobless secondary school graduate reportedly involved in nationalist groupings, was detained overnight at a bus terminal in the Black Sea port city of Samsun, while he was returning from Istanbul to his nearby hometown of Trabzon.

Türkischer Journalist ermordet, Verdächtiger festgenommen
Ogun Samast is escorted by police officersImage: AP

Samast was still carrying the gun he allegedly used to shoot Dink three times in the head and the neck outside the office of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian Agos weekly in downtown Istanbul Friday afternoon, officials said.

"I'm not sorry"

His father tipped off the police about his son after police released pictures of the youth caught on the security camera of a bank near the scene of the murder.

"He admitted he committed the murder" in his preliminary interrogation in Samsun before he was flown to Istanbul, Samsun's chief prosecutor Ahmet Gokcinar told Anatolia news agency.

"I shot him after saying the Friday prayers. I'm not sorry," the CNN Turk news channel quoted the suspect as saying in his testimony.

"I read news on the Internet. He said 'I'm from Turkey but Turkish blood is dirty' and that's why I decided to kill him."

Alleged murderer's age cause for worry

Six other people suspected of being linked to the assassination were detained in Trabzon, and four of them were also flown to Istanbul Sunday.

Pointing to Samast's young age, Dink's lawyer raised the possibility that he might be only a hitman manipulated by others behind the scene.

"The boy might have pulled the trigger, but the authorities should find those who are behind him," Erdal Dogan told the Aksam newspaper. "The state should not just say 'this boy did it' and shut up."

Türkischer Journalist ermordet
Samast's image was captured on a security cameraImage: AP

This sentiment was echoed in a frontpage headline in liberal daily Radikal: "They got a child to kill Dink."

Among the detainees flown from Trabzon to Istanbul was a friend of Samast, named as Yasin Hayal, who spent 11 months in jail for a 2004 bomb blast outside a McDonalds restaurant in Trabzon, in which six people were injured, media reports said.

Samast said in his initial testimony that Hayal encouraged him to kill Dink and gave him the gun that he used in the shooting, mass-circulation Milliyet newspaper reported.

Dink charged for insulting "Turkishness"

Dink was one of the taboo-breaking critics of the official line on the massacre of Armenians in 1915-18 under the Ottoman Empire, which he labeled as genocide. Last year, Dink was given a suspended six-month jail sentence for insulting "Turkishness."

Nationalists had branded him a "traitor," and Dink wrote in his recent articles that he received threats and hate mail.

The Samsun police also detained two men who were travelling on the same bus as Samast and sent them to Istanbul, Anatolia reported, without saying on what suspicion they were held.

Agos employees identified Samast as the person who came to their office about three hours before the attack, presented himself as a university student and asked to see Dink, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said.

He was turned down, and when a secretary went out about two hours later she saw him still standing in the street outside.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed Samast's detention "in the name of democracy and the struggle for freedom."

The police will also look into any possible links between Dink's assassination and the murder of an Italian Catholic priest in Trabzon in February, Erdogan said.

A 16-year-old youth was jailed in October for the murder of Father Andrea Santoro, shot dead as he prayed at the Santa Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon, a nationalist stronghold.

EU "appalled" by killing

The journalist's murder sent shock waves through Turkey, sparking nationwide demonstrations at which the most popular chant was "We are all Armenians, we are all Hrants."

Despite the controversies, the soft-spoken and often emotional Dink had won many hearts here as a sincere activist for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, who also denounced Armenian radicalism and most recently a French bill to jail those who deny that the massacres constituted genocide.

Türkei Journalist Hrant Dink ermordet Porträt
Hrant Dink broke taboos in TurkeyImage: AP

German presidency of the European Union said Saturday it was shocked and appalled by the murder of 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."

It also said Dink 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."

Dink's funeral was to be held on Tuesday.