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Trial of Hrant Dink’s convicted murderer over alleged Gülen links begins

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An İstanbul court on Wednesday began to hear the trial of Ogün Samast, the convicted murderer of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who is accused of terrorism-related charges over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

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 prison in western Bolu province on Nov. 15, which led to outrage among opposition politicians, journalists, human rights activists and social media users.

Days after Samast’s release, the İstanbul 2nd Juvenile Court accepted an indictment seeking a prison sentence ranging from seven years, six months to 12 years for Samast on the grounds that he “committed crimes on behalf of an armed terrorist organization without being a member.”

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016, and labels it as a terrorist organization. Gülen and his movement strongly deny any involvement in the failed putsch and any terrorist activity.

Dink’s wife Rakel Dink, their children Arat and Sera Dink and his brother Hasrof Dink are mentioned as “plaintiffs,” while Samast is characterized as a “child pushed to crime” in the indictment.

Samast asked the court for additional time to make his defense during Wednesday’s hearing. The court accepted his request in addition to imposing a travel ban on him.

According to the indictment, although concrete evidence of Samast being a member of the Gülen movement could not be obtained, certain pieces of evidence indicate a connection with the organization’s leaders and members and that Samast acted in line with the organization’s interests and objectives during and after the murder.

In this case, Samast’s trial was merged with the trial of of 11 other defendants, among them former police chiefs Ramazan Akyürek and Ali Fuat Yılmazer, who are in prison over alleged Gülen links.

Havva Hülya Deveci, one of the Dink family lawyers, earlier said that the content of the new indictment against Samast is affected by the statute of limitations.

Deveci explained that the statute of limitations, calculated from the highest limit with an extraordinary limit of 22.5 years, is nevertheless reduced for individuals under the age of 18 to 15 years.

“In the case of Ogün Samast, the statute of limitations for this crime expired on January 19, 2022,” Deveci said.

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.

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

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