The confessed killer of journalist Hrant Dink was sentenced by a juvenile court in Istanbul on Monday.
By Ozgur Ogret for Southeast European Times in Istanbul – 26/07/11
Demonstrators hold placards in Turkish and Armenian near a courthouse in Istanbul. [Reuters]
Confessed assassin Ogun Samast was sentenced on Monday (July 25th) to 22 years in prison for the "planned murder" of Armenian-born Turkish citizen Hrant Dink in Istanbul on January 19th 2007.
Samast, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was sentenced by a juvenile court -- saving him from receiving life without parole, the sentence the court first handed down, and then reduced.
Samast will serve 11 years in prison, due to the law on criminal execution. He has been in jail for four years already, pointing to a mid-2021 release.
The shooter offered his final defence at the hearing Monday, expressing regret and claiming to be a reformed man.
Samast's lawyer, Levent Yıldırım, addressed reporters outside the courtroom and argued his client should not be sentenced for planned murder.
"The incident is not related to [any] planning at all. Ogün [did not confess] until the last minute," Yildirim said, adding that he will take the sentence to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Dink family lawyer Fethiye Çetin also spoke to the press after the hearing and criticised the court for failing to give Samast the 24-year maximum jail time.
Cetin said they expected a harsher sentence due to the offence being committed with a "racist hatred motive" and the act hurting the society's culture of co-existence.
"The aim of the criminal law … is not just [to see] justice being done, but also to keep the social peace [and] provide a culture of co-existence with all our differences," she said.
The Friends of Hrant platform has followed the trials since the beginning, holding demonstrations before the hearings in order to maintain public interest on the legal process.
"Aside from the sentence Ogün Samast received as the triggerman, I believe the actual matter with this case is that the actual responsible parties were not allowed to be tried. This list includes the police, gendarmerie, the national intelligence agency (MİT) and even former governors," member Cigdem Mater told SETimes.
She added that it is a problem that hate crimes are not defined by Turkish law.
Both the platform and the defence lawyers have been arguing that the case has not progressed well in the last four years, as those behind Samast are being protected by the state.
In September 2010, the European Court of Human Rights has found the Turkish state guilty of failing to protect Dink's right to life and freedom of expression.