Release on parole of Turkish-Armenian journalist’s convicted killer sparks outrage

Carnations and candles are seen as people commemorate the 10th death anniversary of Hrant Dink, former editor-in-chief of bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, in front of the newspaper's office in Istanbul, Turkey on January 19, 2017. He was assassinated in Istanbul in 2007. AFP

The release on parole on Wednesday of Ogün Samast, the convicted murderer of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian bilingual Agos weekly, has led to outrage among opposition politicians, journalists and social media users, Turkish Minute reported.

The 52-year-old Dink 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.

Many reacted to the development on social media, including opposition politicians, journalists and human rights activists.

Özgür Özel, the newly elected leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) that there are influential figures who protect and support Samast in Turkey.

Emphasizing the premeditation of the murder, Özel said Samast’s release is an “incredible injustice against the Armenian community in Turkey.”

“We have reached a point where words fail. If Ogun Samast is released for good behavior, anyone speaking of justice [in Turkey] from now on is truly heartless,” Özel said.

Meral Danış Beştaş, group deputy chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), said during a general assembly meeting Wednesday in parliament, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), that the political power that releases a murderer also continues to detain politicians and people accused of thought crime.

“They assassinated Hrant Dink. … Our friend, our soul. There was an Armenian in this country who stood for peace, and they assassinated him. … In this country, there is room for murderers, but no room for democrats and democracy,” Beştaş said.

“I bow before the memory of my brother, our brother, Dink once again with respect and humility,” Sırrı Süreyya Önder, a HEDEP MP and deputy speaker of parliament, said.

Medyascope news website editor-in-chief Ruşen Çakır shared the news of Samast’s release on X, formerly known as Twitter, with the note “disgraceful,” while journalist Timur Soykan said, “The absence of justice is crushing. Those causing it should be condemned.”

“Hrant Dink’s murderer has been deemed to have exhibited ‘good conduct.’ The ‘good conduct’ that they don’t even apply to sick inmates has been applied to the murderer!!!” Eren Keskin, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist, also said on X.

Friends of Dink also released a joint statement on X emphasizing that they will not let this go and will continue to say, “Those who protect the murderers are accomplices to the crime.”

“We knew it, we were saying it, but with this latest development, it has been proven: There’s no justice! No conscience! No fairness [in Turkey]!” they 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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