ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – A court Tuesday sentenced a teenager to more than 18 years in prison for shooting to death a Catholic priest as he knelt in prayer inside his church, his lawyer said.

The shooting occurred in February at a time of widespread anger in the Islamic world over the publication in European newspapers of caricatures of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The 16-year-old boy, who has been identified by the court in the Black Sea city of Trabzon only by his initials, O.A., pleaded guilty to killing the Rev. Andrea Santoro, 60, on Feb. 5 while he prayed at his parish in the Turkish city of Trabzon.

“I regret it,” the boy told the court when he was asked for his last words before sentencing, according to the private Dogan news agency.

Witnesses said the youth shouted “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “God is great” – before firing two bullets into Santoro’s back, according to authorities.

The court sentenced the youth to 18 years, 10 months and 20 days in prison on charges of premeditated murder, possession of an unlicensed gun and deliberately threatening public safety, the court said.

“I was expecting this decision, there will be an appeal,” said Mahya Usta, the boy’s lawyer.

The boy’s family reacted angrily, saying the penalty was too heavy.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.