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Media Freedom Watch: IPI/SEEMO Press Release – Turkish Court Sentences Dink Killer to 23 Years in Prison

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Vienna, 1 August 2011- A Turkish court yesterday sentenced the trigger-man in the 2007 murder of International Press Institute (IPI) World Press Freedom Hero Hrant Dink to almost 23 years in prison. A juvenile court in Istanbul imposed nearly the maximum sentence on ultranationalist Ogün Samast – who was 17 at the time of Dink’s killing – after convicting him of premeditated murder and carrying an unlicensed gun.

Samast gunned down Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, in broad daylight outside of Dink’s office in Istanbul.

Dink had received numerous death threats from Turkish nationalists who viewed his journalism as treacherous. He had also faced legal problems for denigrating “Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in his articles about the massacre of Armenians during the First World War.

IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “We welcome the conviction and sentence of Mr. Dink’s murderer, and we hope it brings a measure of closure to his family. Nevertheless, we call on Turkish authorities to hold all those involved in this heinous crime accountable, from those who facilitated it to the masterminds who ordered it.”

A hearing is currently scheduled this Friday in the trial of 18 other defendants charged with involvement in the murder. Their cases were separated from the case against Samast due to his age at the time of the slaying.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in September that Turkish authorities failed to protect Dink despite having information about plots targeting him.

In other news, 39 detained journalists in Turkey marked the 103rd anniversary of the Day of Journalists and Resistance to Censorship on 24 July by publishing the first issue of the Prisoner Gazette. Printed in black and white, it was distributed together with the dailies Evrensel, Özgür Gündem, Azadiya Welat, Birgün, Aydınlık and Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Contributors to the publication included IPI World Press Freedom Hero Nedim Şener – who was recognized last year for his investigative journalism, and who wrote a book linking authorities to Dink’s murder – and journalist Ahmet Şik. As of next Aug. 3, both Şener and Şik will have spent 150 in prison since being detained in March.

Last week Şener applied to the European Court of Human Rights claiming violations of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding “the prohibition of torture”, “the right to liberty and security” and “the right to freedom of expression”. He requested that the court suspend his detention as an interim measure.

The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate, supports this statement.

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