Teen held in killing of Turkish journalist

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ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) – Police detained a teenager suspected in the slaying of an ethnic Armenian journalist, acting on a tip from the boy’s father after his pictures were broadcast on Turkish television, Istanbul’s governor said Saturday.

Ogun Samast, who is 16 or 17 years old, was caught on a bus in the Black Sea city of Samsun, Gov. Muammer Guler said. He was apparently on his way from Istanbul back to his home town of Trabzon, the governor said.

Hrant Dink, the 52-year-old editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was gunned down outside his newspaper’s office in Istanbul on Friday.

Most Turks assume Dink was targeted for his columns saying the killing of ethnic Armenians by Turks in the early 20th century was genocide. Nationalists consider such statements an insult to Turkey’s honor and a threat to its unity, and Dink had been showered with insults and threats.

Guler said Samast was arrested in an operation coordinated by police and security officials at the Samsun bus station. Video footage showed paramilitary police at the station inspecting a pistol and then placing it into an evidence bag.

Guler said Samast’s father had turned him in.

Samast’s photograph was caught by a security camera about two blocks from the scene of the crime in Istanbul and was broadcast live on television stations across Turkey on Saturday. Guler said earlier that Dink’s secretary had identified the young man in the photograph as the same person who had requested a meeting with Dink the day he was killed, the Anatolia news agency reported. The man said he was a student at Ankara University, Guler said.

The request was refused, and the secretary said she saw him waiting in front of a bank about an hour before Dink was killed, Anatolia reported.

Guler said Samast was born in 1990, but he didn’t release his exact age. He said the teen was being brought back to Istanbul for questioning along with six other suspects from Trabzon.

Police were investigating whether the teen acted alone or had ties to a group.

Threats and violence against Turkish editors and reporters is not uncommon, and well-known journalists commonly receive police protection and can be seen traveling around Istanbul with bodyguards. Dink was alone when he was killed.

Guler rejected accusations that the government did not do enough to protect Dink.

“Because he didn’t request protection, he didn’t get close protection,” he said Saturday. “Only general security precautions were taken.”

Meanwhile, mourners held a vigil at the spot where Dink was gunned down Friday. Many in the crowd, which included Turks and members of Istanbul’s small Armenian community, had pictures of the slain journalist pinned to their chests.

“We’re here to pay our respects,” said Sabri Nas, 47, an Armenian-Turk. “We are against this violence, whatever the motivation.”

Turkey’s relationship with its Armenian minority has long been haunted by a bloody past. Much of its once-influential Armenian population was killed or driven out beginning around 1915 in what an increasing number of nations are calling the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey acknowledges that large numbers of Armenians died but vehemently denies it was genocide, saying the overall figure is inflated and the deaths occurred in the civil unrest during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

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