Ogün Samast, the 21-year-old murderer of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was found guilty and sentenced to 22 years and 10 months in prison, after the court heard a defense that pointed to collaborators including the media and other figures that might have controlled him.
Samast attested to having a poor education and, admitting that it was a mistake to kill Dink, said he was acting under influence.
“Where else could I learn about his newspaper, his treason — where else could I learn about Hrant Dink if not for those articles in the nationalist media,” he said, referring to the fervently nationalist headlines and columns that appeared in Turkish media’s notoriously right wing mainstream press. “They are also killers, killers of the conscience.”
But at the end of the day it was Samast’s hand that pulled the trigger on 19 January, 2007, in front of Dink’s newspaper in the heart of İstanbul. He will serve a decade in prison for “planned homicide” and “possession of an unlicensed weapon.”
Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin welcomed the decision, pointing to the fact that 21 years and 6 months in prison is close to the maximum sentence for this offence, which is 24 years. But Samast might actually be released as early as 2023, as he had already served four years in prison, and a special section of the penal code reduces his sentence by one third. If a separate case about his role in a terrorist cell comes to nothing, then Samast is looking at 10 years and 8 months prison time. As he had been 17 years of age when he murdered Dink, Samast was tried in a juvenile court, which influenced the outcome of his case. Had he been a year older when the murder took place, the sentence would have been much longer.
This will not be the last time we see Samast in a courtroom. There is another case where he will be tried for being a member of a terrorist organisation that plotted the attack. For this charge, on which he is being tried alongside with Yasin Hayal and Erhan Tuncel, Samast faces eight to 18 years in jail. On Monday, Çetin told the NTV news channel that the Dink family are expecting 11 years of imprisonment for Samast from this separate terror case.
The news came as a shock to Samast’s family in the northern city of Trabzon, who had anticipated a much more lenient sentence. Other figures also awaited for the outcome eagerly. In a third case about the Dink murder which focuses on the alleged negligence in preventing the event, Trabzon Gendarmerie Commander Ali Öz and Gendarmerie Intelligence Unit Director Metin Yıldız are being tried. Some columnists complained about a lack of focus and integrity between those three cases that might actually form one case — some minute details might become significant when compared to details from other cases. President Abdullah Gül, who said last year that “necessary precautions” to prevent the assassination of Hrant Dink had not been taken, has appointed a committee with special powers to investigate state involvement in the murder. In order to see the big picture behind the Dink murder, we will have to wait for a little longer.
This article was published in Index on Censorship's web site.