Teen held in editor's killing

17-year-old accused of shooting Turkish journalist Friday

January 21, 2007|By New York Times News Service

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- The Turkish police arrested a 17-year-old suspect yesterday in the killing of a newspaper editor who championed Armenian rights, Turkish authorities said.

The editor, Hrant Dink, 52, a Turk of Armenian descent, was shot Friday afternoon outside the office of his newspaper, Agos. A gunman was recorded by a surveillance camera nearby, and the police appealed to the public for help in identifying him.

Ogun Samast was captured last night in Samsun on the Black Sea after his father recognized the teen's image on the surveillance video and notified the police in Trabzon, their hometown, said Muammer Guler, Istanbul's governor, at a news conference.

"The suspect was captured in Samsun on a passenger bus destined to Trabzon, together with evidence" including a gun and a white beret seen in the video, Guler said.

Samast, an unemployed secondary-school graduate who arrived in Istanbul a week ago, admitted killing Dink, the Samsun police said.

The police are also looking into possible links between Samast and the killing of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Andrea Santaro, in February. The assailant was a 16-year-old who, like the priest and Samast, was from Trabzon.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the efforts of the security forces yesterday and expressed satisfaction that an arrest had been made before Dink's funeral Tuesday. "We're going to continue investigations with the same determination," Erdogan told reporters, assuring them that the arrest was only the start.

Guler said at a news conference earlier yesterday that Samast had visited the Agos office Friday. He apparently posed as a university student hoping to meet Dink, whose secretary told the young man he would need an appointment.

The secretary later saw him loitering outside the office before Dink was attacked, Guler said.

Kazim Kolcuoglu, head of the Istanbul Bar Association, noting that Samast and the killer of Santaro were under 18, said that minors in Turkey are used in killings because they face lesser penalties than adults convicted of the same crime.

As a minor, Samast will be interrogated by a public prosecutor instead of the police and will be tried at a minors' court, which will lead to certain reductions on his possible jail term, Kolcuoglu said.

Dink's murder has shocked Turkey. Erdogan condemned the shooting as a direct attack on Turkey's stability, and observers from diverse political backgrounds appeared to agree.

"If the trigger finger aimed at the air of stability and confidence in Turkey, it hit the bull's eye," wrote Mehmet Barlas, a columnist for the center-right newspaper Sabah.

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