Dink’s Murder Suspect Held By Turkish Police

ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)–Police detained a teenager suspected in the slaying of Hrant Dink, an Armenian journalist, acting on a tip from the boy’s father after his pictures were broadcast on Turkish television, news agencies reported citing Istanbul’s governor as saying Saturday. Ogun Samast, who is 16 or 17 years old, was caught on a bus in the Black Sea city of Samsun, Gov. Muammer Guler said. He was apparently on his way from Istanbul back to his home town of Trabzon, the governor said. Hrant Dink, the 52-year-old editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was gunned down outside his newspaper’s office in Istanbul on Friday. Most Turks assume Dink was targeted for his columns saying the killing of Armenia’s by Turks in the early 20th century was genocide. Nationalists consider such statemen’s an insult to Turkey’s honor and a threat to its unity, and Dink had been showered with insults and threats. Guler said Samast was arrested in an operation coordinated by police and security officials at the Samsun bus station. Samast’s photograph was caught by a security camera about two blocks from the scene of the crime in Istanbul and was broadcast live on television stations across Turkey on Saturday. Guler said earlier that Dink’s secretary had identified the young man in the photograph as the same person who had requested a meeting with Dink the day he was killed, the Anatolia news agency reported. The man’said he was a student at Ankara University, Guler said. The request was refused, and the secretary said she saw him waiting in front of a bank about an hour before Dink was killed, Anatolia reported. Guler said Samast was brought back to Istanbul for questioning along with six other suspects from Trabzon. Samsat has been described by his friends as being "combative " person, reported some Turkish newspapers, which added that his family called him "impressionable." Turkish newspapers offer a profile of this boy, a resident of Trabzon, saying he reportedly confessed to the killing shortly after his arrest. "I don’t regret it. I would do it again," the youth was quoted as saying during his preliminary interrogation in Samsun, according to Chief Prosecutor Ahmet Gokcinar, the daily Hurriyet said. As of Sunday evening, a total 12 others suspected of complicity had been arrested in Istanbul and Trabzon. The youth’s ties to Trabzon also focused attention on the city’s reputation as center for anti-western feeling, The Turkish Daily News reported reminding that a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro was slain there in February of last year, also by a juvenile. The Internet was an influence in his decision to attack Dink, Samast told police during his first interrogation in Istanbul, according to the Anatolian News Agency and other reports. Television commentary and debate in Turkey emphasized that no protection was provided for Dink, despite a barrage of death threats before and after his suspended conviction last year for "insulting Turkishness" under the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. Among suspects under continued questioning in Istanbul, one, Yasin Hayal, served 11 months in jail for bombing a McDonald’s restaurant in Trabzon in 2004, Vatan reported. Hayal told police officers he provided a gun and money to the teenager who is suspected of carrying out Friday’s shooting, a newspaper reported, citing police records. The teenager, Ogun Samast, was also arrested over the weekend along with several other people and has confessed to fatally shooting the journalist, according to a chief prosecutor. During police questioning, Hayal, told investigators: "I gave him the gun and the money. Ogun fulfilled his duty and saved the honor of Turkey," the Hurriyet newspaper reported. Police confirmed the confession, but gave no details. If accurate, Hayal’s reported statemen’s to police would be a strong indication that the slain journalist, Hrant Dink, was targeted because of his public statemen’s on the mass killings of Armenia’s by Turks in the early 20th century, one of the nation’s most sensitive and divisive issues. Hayal has allegedly trained a handful of teenagers on arms in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, indoctrinating them with the idea of punishing traitors, Hurriyet said. Hayal was convicted in the bombing of a McDonald’s restaurant in Trabzon in 2004 that injured six people. Hayal was released after serving more than 10 months in prison for the attack. The motives behind that attack remain unclear. At the time, police could not establish a link between Hayal and any underground groups. Hayal had said that he learned how to make bombs from Chechen militants in a camp in Azerbaijan and told police he attacked the McDonald’s restaurant "to punish the United States and its collaborators." Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that the swift arrest of the teenager was "a lesson to those who want to shoot at freedoms" in Turkey. He promised a thorough investigation and, without naming them outright, appeared to blame the slaying on nationalist groups, which he said were intent on turning Turkey into an insular country, cut off from the rest of the world. "I cannot think of anything worse for Turkey. Those people … can never call themselves patriots. Our people will never forgive them," Erdogan said. Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener told CNN-Turk television on Monday that "Turkey should be proud of intellectuals who do not think like the state. All institutions from politicians to the judiciary should protect them. Turkey should not be a country where its intellectuals are killed for having different views." Nobel prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk visited Dink’s newspaper on Sunday and blamed the slaying on defenders of Turkey’s Article 301, a law that makes it a crime to insult Turkey, its government or national character by, for example, expressing opinions on the Armenian deaths.

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