A juvenile court in Turkey initially handed a life sentence to Ogun Samast, 21, but then reduced it because he was a minor at the time of the crime committed in broad daylight.
Ever since his arrest in January 2007, Samast has admitted shooting and killing Dink outside the Istanbul offices of the latter’s bilingual newspaper “Agos.”
Dink was hated by hardline Turkish nationalists for openly describing the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. Six months before his death, he was given a suspended six-month sentence for “insulting Turkishness” in an article on what remains a highly sensitive subject in Turkey.
Turkey -- Gendarme officers escort the suspect Ogun Samast (C), in the killing of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink, from a court after his trial hearing in Istanbul, 07Jul2008
Dink’s murder sent shockwaves through Turkey and Armenia and caused strong international condemnation. In an unprecedented outpouring of sympathy, tens of thousands of Turks took part in his funeral.
News reports said Samast blamed Turkish newspapers for his decision to kill the 52-year-old “Agos” editor. “How did I hear about ‘Agos,’ about Hrant Dink, about him being a traitor? It was all in the columns of ‘Hurriyet’ and ‘Vatan,’” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying in his final court statement on Monday.
Samast will continue to stand trial, along with 18 other suspects, on separate charges belonging to a terrorist organization. He is facing an additional sentence of a maximum 16 years in prison.
Fethiye Cetin, a lawyer for Dink's family, expressed satisfaction with the first verdict in the closely watched case. “The court imposed a sentence that is close to the heaviest possible punishment,” Cetin told reporters.
“The sentence is very important in terms of preventing the repetition of such acts that threaten our co-habitation,” she said, according to AFP.
Eyten Mahcupyan, a Turkish-Armenian columnist who took over editorship of “Agos” after Dink's death, also praised the court for opting for a severe jail term. “The court was courageous enough to go with the evidence, and not go down an ideological path in terms of nationalism,” Mahcupyan, who is now a columnist for pro-government “Zaman” newspaper, told Reuters.
Turkey -- Editor-in-chief of newspaper Agos Hrant Dink was killed - 19 Jan 2007
The Dink family’s legal team has been very critical of the criminal investigation into the killling conducted by Turkish law-enforcement authorities. It has accused police of withholding and destroying evidence to cover up the murder, including footage from a bank security camera in the street where the journalist was gunned down.
Turkish prosecutors say police received intelligence as early as 2006 of a plot to kill Dink being organized in the Black Sea port of Trabzon, home to Samast and several other defendants. A Turkish court convicted and sentenced two security officers to six months in prison on corresponding charges in June. Four other officials were each given four-month sentences also for neglecting their duties.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that the Turkish authorities failed to take adequate measures to protect Dink. It ordered them to pay 100,000 euros ($142,000) to the slain editor’s family in compensation.
Turkish investigations subsequently suggested that Dink’s killing and other incidents targeting minorities were part of a bigger plot to undermine Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government. Erdogan's AK Party sprang from a banned Islamist party that is loathed by secular nationalists.