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Youth held in killing of Armenian journalist

Sun., Jan. 21, 2007

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Police on Saturday detained a teenager suspected of slaying an ethnic Armenian journalist, acting on a tip from the boy’s father after his picture was broadcast on Turkish television, senior officials said.

Ogun Samast, who is either 16 or 17 years old, was caught on a bus in the Black Sea city of Samsun, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. He was apparently traveling from Istanbul back to his hometown of Trabzon, Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said.

Samast was wanted in connection with the killing of Hrant Dink, a 52-year-old editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos who was gunned down outside his newspaper’s office in Istanbul on Friday.

Erdogan said Samast was arrested with the gun believed to have been used in the killing. Video footage showed paramilitary police at the Samsun bus station inspecting a pistol and then placing it into an evidence bag.

Guler said Samast’s father had turned him in.

Most Turks assume Dink was targeted for his columns saying the killing of ethnic Armenians by Turks in the early 20th century was genocide. Nationalists consider such statements an insult to Turkey’s honor and a threat to its unity, and Dink had been showered with insults and threats.

Turkey’s relationship with its Armenian minority has long been haunted by a bloody past. Much of its once-influential Armenian population was killed or driven out beginning around 1915 in what an increasing number of nations are calling the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey acknowledges that large numbers of Armenians died but vehemently denies it was genocide, saying the overall figure is inflated and the deaths occurred in the civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Samast was caught after television stations across Turkey broadcast on Saturday a purported photograph of him caught by a security camera about two blocks from the scene of the crime in Istanbul.

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.


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