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Report: Teen admits killing Turkish journalist

Story Highlights

NEW: Young man arrested over killing reportedly confesses
NEW: At least 12 people detained in Trabzon in northern Turkey
• Youth's father called police after seeing image on television
• Controversial journalist known for addressing Armenian-Turk relations
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- The teenage suspect arrested for allegedly gunning down a controversial Turkish journalist has confessed he killed him and has no regrets, the official state-run news agency Anatolia reported Sunday.

The chief prosecutor in the case told Anatolia that suspect Ogun Samast, reportedly 17 years old, told police he was angry at Hrant Dink.

Dink -- a prominent Turkish journalist of Armenian heritage -- was shot dead in front of his Istanbul newspaper office Friday in broad daylight. (Watch Dink's aide describe how a suspect wanted to meet with Dink Video)

Police arrested Samast on Saturday after a 32-hour search, authorities said.

Turkish media, citing police, reported that Samast is 17, a high school dropout and a possible drug addict.

He was arrested on a bus in Samsun, on his way to Trabzon. The bus was waiting to leave the bus station, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler told reporters.

During the arrest Guler said police found a gun and the white knit hat that Samast was wearing on a surveillance video that had been aired on Turkish television.

It was that video that led to the youngster's arrest. Police said his father saw widely publicized pictures from it and tipped them off.

The father is from Trabzon in northern Turkey on the Black Sea, but Samast was living in Istanbul with his uncle, according to media reports.

Authorities said the youngster was brought to Istanbul by plane Sunday.

At least 12 people have been detained in connection with the case in Trabzon, and six of them are to be brought to Istanbul for questioning on Sunday, CNN Turk said.

Dink was editor of the Armenian-Turkish-language weekly Agos newspaper. He had received many death threats for speaking out against the killings of minority Armenians by the Ottoman Empire early in the last century and being in trouble with the law because of his remarks about that topic.

"The bullets aimed at Hrant Dink were shot into all of us," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a nationally televised statement on Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

Erdogan sent his interior minister and justice minister to Istanbul to lead the investigation.

Erdogan said the attack was a "shock" and an "insult" to the Turkish nation and a "dark day" -- not only for Dink's family but also for all of Turkey.

"The dark hands that killed him will be found and punished," Erdogan said in the televised remarks.

Angry, saddened Turks took to the streets of Istanbul and other cities to mourn Dink's death.

Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan declared 15 days of mourning for the small Armenian community in Turkey, the Reuters news service reported.

The killing shocked all of Turkey, where Dink, who was in his early 50s, had earned a reputation for promoting dialogue between Turks and Armenians, backing open borders between Turkey and the nation of Armenia, and expressing a love of his Turkish homeland.

Protesters in Istanbul walked slowly and somberly Friday night, holding candles, wielding banners and waving flags. They carried signs and chanted phrases such as "We are all Hrant Dink and we are all Armenians."

Editor addressed Armenian-Turk issues squarely

Described as a "well-known commentator on Armenian affairs," Dink had been called into court a number of times on allegations of "insulting" the Turkish state in his writing.

"Some of the trial hearings have been marred by violent scenes inside and outside the courtrooms, instigated by nationalist activists calling for Dink to be punished," says a profile on the Web site of PEN American Center -- the writers' group that defends free expression.

Agos was established in 1996, and Dink didn't shy away from dealing with the controversies in that region over the killings of Armenians from 1915 through 1917 -- a hot-button issue in Turkey.

Armenians and other countries regard those killings as genocide, a claim rejected by the Turkish government, which says Armenians and Turks were killed in civil warfare.

Andrew Finkel, a journalist in Turkey and a friend of Dink's, emphasized that Dink's killing was "a tragedy" for a country attempting to come to terms with its past.

Finkel said resentment toward Dink existed among ultranationalist Turks, and the people who staged "ugly scenes" at his trials are the same ones who staged rallies directed at Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish writer who faced charges of insulting Turkishness as well.

He described Dink as a bright and brash man who was a well-known figure in Istanbul and an advocate for Turkey's small Armenian community -- a once-populous group now numbering around 60,000 or 70,000.

"If anything, he was a great Turkish patriot," Finkel told CNN.

"Mr. Dink, for all the libels against him, for all the opposition that was against him in certain sections of the right-wing Turkish press, was really in favor of Turkish and Armenian neighbors being able to look each other in their face and recognize their past histories. He was a courageous man who died in a terrible way."

Joel Campagna, Mideast program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said, "Like dozens of other Turkish journalists, Hrant Dink has faced political persecution because of his work. Now it appears he's paid the ultimate price for it."

Campagna said that Turkey "must ensure that this crime does not go unpunished like other cases in the past and that those responsible for his murder are brought to justice."

He said that over the last 15 years, 18 Turkish journalists have been killed -- making the country the eighth deadliest in the world for journalists in that period. He said many of the deaths took place in the early 1990s, at the peak of the Kurdish separatist insurgency.

Reporters Without Borders, another journalists' advocacy group, also said a proper investigation is needed, underscoring its position that "this will be a key test for a country that hopes to join the European Union. No one would understand if Turkey failed to do everything possible to shed light on this tragedy."

Turkey has long sought membership in the EU.

Provocative articles prompt charges

PEN American Center said Dink's publication sought to "provide a voice to the Armenian community and create a dialogue between Turks and Armenians."

The group said that before his killing, "Dink had complained of death threats he was receiving from nationalists."

"We are horrified," said Larry Siems, director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. "Hrant Dink was one of the heroes of the nonviolent movement for freedom of expression in Turkey."

PEN listed some of the cases that made Dink a controversial figure:

  • In 2001, the Turkish government suspended publication of Agos when Dink advocated acknowledgement of genocide. He was acquitted and publication resumed.
  • In 2004, the government interpreted part of a Dink article as anti-Turk; he received a six-month suspended sentence. In his appeal, Dink said, "As long as I live (in Turkey), I will go on telling the truth, just as I always have.'"
  • In February 2006 he was acquitted of insulting the Turkish state for his criticism in 2002 of a verse in the Turkish national anthem.
  • In July 2006 he received another six-month suspended sentence after writing an article that called for Armenians to "now turn their attention to the new life offered by an independent Armenia."
  • One week later, the Istanbul public prosecutor opened a new case against Dink for referring to the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide during a July 14 interview with Reuters. Dink was awaiting his trial on those charges when he was killed.
  • Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, told CNN that the case is the "product of the environment that the Turkish government has created" -- its persistent denial that the killings of the Armenians last century did not amount to genocide.

    Said Hamparian: "Turkey needs to come to grips with its past."

    Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.


    story.suspect1.ap.jpg

    A teenager suspected in the killing of Hrant Dink, center, is taken into custody.

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