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Convicted killer of Turkish-Armenian journalist released on parole

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Ogün Samast, the convicted murderer of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was released on parole on Wednesday.

The 52-year-old Dink, editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian bilingual Agos weekly, was shot dead with two bullets to the head outside the newspaper’s headquarters in central İstanbul on Jan. 19, 2007 by Samast, then a-17-year-old jobless high school dropout.

Samast was arrested the following day.

After serving 16 years, 10 months, Samast was released from Turkey’s western Bolu province’s F Type Prison.

In June Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld certain acquittals while overturning other verdicts in the trial of 76 defendants, primarily public officials, in connection with Dink’s assassination.

The verdict handed down on March 26, 2021 by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court included 33 acquittals and 27 convictions.

Engin Dinç, former director of the Trabzon police intelligence unit; Reşat Altay, former Trabzon police chief; and Ahmet İlhan Güler, former director of the İstanbul intelligence unit, were acquitted of “negligent homicide.”

Ramazan Akyürek and Ali Fuat Yılmazer, two of the jailed defendants and former police chiefs, were given aggravated life sentences by the Turkish court for “premeditated murder,” while four defendants, including former gendarmerie members Muharrem Demirkale and Yavuz Karakaya, received life sentences.

Samast had confessed to the murder and was sentenced to almost 23 years in prison in 2011.

Ali Öz, a former gendarmerie commander of the Black Sea region of Trabzon, where the gunman came from, was sentenced to 28 years in prison on charges of “premeditated murder” and “forgery of official documents.”

The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court in 2021 separated the files of 13 fugitive suspects, including Fethullah Gülen, on the grounds that their defense statements were not delivered, also ruling that Dink’s murder was committed “in line with the objectives of FETÖ” – a derogatory term used by the Turkish government to refer to the faith-based movement inspired by Gülen as a terrorist organization.

For years, prosecutors have looked into alleged links between the suspects and Gülen, who is accused of masterminding a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016, although he strongly denies the charges.

The Turkish government’s ongoing crackdown on the Gülen movement was launched following corruption investigations in late 2013 that implicated Erdoğan’s close circle and intensified in the aftermath of the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

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