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Dink's murderer sentenced to more than 22 years in prison

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 7/25/2011 12:00:00 AM |

The self-confessed murderer of journalist Hrant Dink, Ogün Samast, has been sentenced to almost 23 years in prison, but the friends of the assassinated journalist say it is time to punish the real culprits behind the killing

A juvenile court in Istanbul handed down a jail term Monday of nearly 23 years to the self-confessed murderer of prominent ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was gunned down in broad daylight in 2007.

The juvenile court initially condemned Ogün Samast to life, but reduced the sentence to 21-and-a-half years on the grounds that he was underage at the time of the murder before giving him an additional 16 months for possession of an unlicensed weapon.

Samast was facing 18 to 24 years in jail on charges of having killed Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin and the editor-in-chief of weekly Agos, who was murdered in front of his newspaper’s office in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007.

In the trial Monday, Samast defended himself by saying he had a poor education and committed the murder under other people’s influences.

“I was influenced by newspapers and some columnists. Otherwise how would I know Hrant Dink, how would I know Agos?” Samast said.

A lawyer for the Dink family noted that Samast is also a suspect in another case on accusations of being a member of a terrorist organization.

“The court’s decision is closer to the upper limit,” Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin told the private news channel NTV. “However this is only one part of the case. In today’s trial Samast was convicted of murder, yet he is also being tried for being part of a terror organization.”

Samast is also facing eight to 18 years in jail on the terror-related charges. He is being tried along with Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, who are also charged with “membership in and directing of a terrorist organization” and “assisting a terrorist organization.” Çetin said they are expecting another 11 years of imprisonment for Samast from that trial.

Under the Turkish Penal Code, Samast will likely not serve the 22 years and 10 months to which he was sentenced. Legal experts said he might be able leave prison after between 10 and 12 years.

“His sentence will be decreased if he shows good behavior in prison,” Ali Ersin Gür, former president of Contemporary Lawyers Association, or ÇHD.

“In that case he will have to stay in jail for three-fourths of the murder sentence, which is about 16.5 years. Considering that he has already been in jail for the past 4.5 years, he might be out of prison by 2023,” Gür told the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone.

Retired prosecutor Mete Göktürk said, however, that Samast’s sentence might be decreased by one third since he was tried in juvenile court.

“He might be pardoned for almost seven years [of the sentence], which would mean a total sentence of 15 years,” Göktürk told Habertürk television. In that case Samast would be out of jail by 2021.

Regardless of how much time he ends up serving, Samast’s sentence will not be enough to please those who believe there are other people behind the murder, according to figures who have been following the trial closely.

“We have been waiting for this decision for 4.5 years, and today it has been finalized. Yet the real criminals haven’t been tried yet,” said Garo Paylan, a member of a group known as Hrant’s Friends.

“There are several state officers behind this murder. We want each of them to be sentenced,” Çetin said.

Among the eight suspects who are being tried on charges of negligence in preventing the Dink’s murder are Trabzon Gendarmerie Commander Col. Ali Öz and Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit Director Cpt. Metin Yıldız.

The next hearing of the case trial will be held Friday. Paylan said now was the time to punish the other people involved.

“Today the court punished the child, yet we are waiting for his big brothers,” he said.

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