Last week, on 25 July 2011, Ogün Samast, was convicted and sentenced to 22 years and 10 months in prison for the “premeditated murder” of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink in January 2007. PEN International welcomes news of the conviction and continues to call for those who had colluded in Dink’s assassination to also be brought to justice.
Samast, who was only 17 when he shot Dink dead outside the offices of his newspaper, Agos, in Istanbul, on 19 January 2007, was sentenced by a juvenile court in Istanbul and reportedly received the heaviest sentence that can be passed against a minor. Samast was also sentenced to an additional 16 months in prison for being in possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Arrested a day after the killing, Samast confessed immediately and showed little remorse for his actions. He told the court that he had been poorly educated and easily influenced by others to commit the murder, saying “I was influenced by newspapers and some columnists. Otherwise how would I know Hrant Dink, how would I know Agos?”
Dink’s lawyer, Fetihye Cetin, welcomed the sentence, but pointed out that there had been discrepancies in the trial and there remains disquiet that those who had inspired him to kill Hrant Dink may go unpunished. He points out “Hrant Dink was watched very closely by the state and he was killed by persons who again were very closely watched by the state. Everything is pointing to state institutions. It is blatantly obvious”.
The group, “Friends of Hrant”, led by his widow Rakel Dink and including leading lawyers, academics and journalists, are continuing their campaign for complete justice, saying that “a child had been sentenced” and now it is his “big brothers” turn to face justice, referring to those who had motivated and enabled Samast to kill.
The trial against several others accused of soliciting the murder is under way. At the most recent, 19th, hearing of the case, held in Istanbul on Friday 29 July, two defendants appeared before the court – Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, said to be close to the scene of the crime and to have plotted with Samast for some months before. Both are said to be ultra nationalist militants, and Hayal had been imprisoned previously for bombing a McDonalds outlet in the Black Sea town of Trabzon in 2004.
In June this year, six senior police and military officers, also from Trabzon, were sentenced to four and six month prison terms for complicity in the murder. They were accused of knowing in advance of the plans to assassinate Dink but of doing nothing to prevent it and obstruction.
Ogün Samast, also from Trabzon, comes from a deprived background and had been unemployed at the time of the crime. Trabzon is described as being the heart-land of Turkey’s ultra-nationalists.
Background on Dink
Hrant Dink was the editor of the Armenian language Agos magazine. Prior to his murder in January 2007, he was one of the few persons to be convicted under Article 301 of the Penal Code for “insulting Turkishness” for his writings on the Armenian genocide. In October 2005 he was given a six month suspended sentence for an article entitled “The Armenian Identity”. Dink’s murder sparked debate on revision or repeal of Article 301, which many believe marked Dink out as a target for ultra nationalists. His death led to a public outcry, with thousands taking to the streets in protest. Since then Article 301 has been amended, leading to fewer cases being prosecuted under it. Some months after Dink’s death, wide scale arrests were made of leading military, police, academics and others accused of being involved in ‘Ergenekon’, an ultra-rightist organisation, which is thought, among other actions, to have links with Dink’s murder. Over 200 alleged members of Ergenekon are now in prison or on trial.
For more information go to:
Hürriyet Article on Samast sentence: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=dink8217s-murderer-sentenced-to-over-22-years-in-prison-2011-07-25
Hürriyet Article on 29 July hearing: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=dink8217s-murder-suspect-to-receive-psychiatric-test-2011-07-29