Sunday, January 21, 2007

Prosecutor: Teen Admits Killing Editor

Associated Press Writer
The Chicago Tribune
Published January 21, 2007, 8:47 AM CST

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A teenage boy has confessed to fatally shooting an ethnic Armenian journalist outside his newspaper office in a brazen daytime attack, a prosecutor said Sunday.

Ogun Samast, who is either 16 or 17 years old, was caught in the Black Sea city of Samsun late Saturday, a day after Hrant Dink was gunned down in Istanbul. Police said the youth was captured following a tip from his father after his pictures were broadcast on Turkish television.

The slaying highlighted the precarious state of freedom of expression in a country that is vying for European Union membership.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the swift work of police, saying "this is a lesson to those who want to shoot at freedoms ... to those who don't want calm to reign in Turkey."

Chief prosecutor Ahmet Cokcinar told The Associated Press that the teenager had confessed to killing Dink during initial questioning in Samsun. He refused to give any further details.

Most Turks assume Dink, the 52-year-old editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was targeted for his columns saying the killing of ethnic Armenians by Turks in the early 20th century was genocide. Nationalists consider such statements an insult to Turkey's honor and a threat to its unity, and Dink had been showered with insults and threats.

Turkey's relationship with its Armenian minority has long been haunted by a bloody past. Much of its once-influential Armenian population was killed or driven out beginning around 1915 in what an increasing number of nations are calling the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey acknowledges that large numbers of Armenians died but vehemently denies it was genocide, saying the overall figure is inflated and the deaths occurred in the civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Istanbul prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin told reporters that authorities were investigating whether Samast acted alone or had ties to a group.

The suspect's uncle Faik Samast told private NTV television that he didn't think his nephew -- a high-school drop out -- was capable of shooting Dink on his own.

"He didn't even know his way around Istanbul," Samast said. "This kid was used."

Police detained six other suspects, including Yasin Hayal, who was convicted in the bombing of a McDonald's restaurant in the Black Sea city of Trabzon in 2004, Turkish news reports said.


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