ISTANBUL (Reuters) -An unemployed teenager has told investigators he shot dead editor Hrant Dink because he had insulted Turks, broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Sunday.
Police caught Ogun Samast, 17, carrying a gun at a bus station in the Black Sea coastal town of Samsun on Saturday evening, a day after the Turkish-Armenian Dink was shot in broad daylight outside his newspaper office in Istanbul.
“I read on the Internet that he (Dink) said ‘I am from Turkey but Turkish blood is dirty’ and I decided to kill him … I do not regret this,” CNN Turk quoted Samast as saying.
Dink was a respected but controversial figure who promoted reconciliation between Turks and Armenians but also called on Turkey to recognize its role in massacres of Armenians during World War One. Turkish nationalists saw such comments as an insult to national honor.
Samsun’s chief prosecutor Ahmet Gokcinar confirmed to state-run Anatolian news agency that Samast had confessed.
Samast and six other suspects are being questioned in Istanbul, police said. One suspect, Yasin Hayal, served 11 months in jail for the bombing of a McDonalds restaurant in Trabzon in 2004, Vatan daily said.
“The murder was planned in Trabzon and carried out in Istanbul. Everybody who helped with this has been identified,” Trabzon governor Huseyin Yavuzdemir said.
The affair has shocked Turkey and raised questions about the country’s tolerance for minorities and freedom of expression as it seeks to join the European Union. Newspapers demanded authorities leave no stone unturned in investigating the latest in a series of politically-motivated murders in Turkey.
Dink, 52, was a Christian of Armenian descent and editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos.
He was frequently criticized by right-wing Turks, including politicians and prosecutors, for describing the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a genocide.
The once-influential Armenian community in Turkey has dwindled to some 60,000 people.
Last year, Turkey upheld a six-month suspended jail sentence against Dink for “insulting Turkey’s identity” in his writings on Armenians and Turks. Several other cases related to comments on the massacres of Armenians were pending against him.
Dozens of intellectuals have been charged with insulting Turkish identity under article 301 of the revised penal code — passed by the current AK Party government.
Most, including Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, were taken to court by nationalist-minded prosecutors for comments related to the alleged genocide of Armenians.
Turkey denies 1.5 million Armenians died in a systematic genocide. It says both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks died in a conflict on Ottoman territory during World War One.
France has made it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide and the U.S. Congress is to debate a similar bill.
The ruling AK Party, which has roots in political Islam, has repeatedly promised to revise the much criticized penal code article. The European Union wants Ankara to change the law.
The government is likely to face pressure to address freedom of expression and also the country’s dark past as presidential and parliamentary elections approach.
“Just wait and see how this will resonate outside,” wrote leading columnist Mehmet Ali Birand. “Turkey will be blamed for everything. Newspapers will write about how Turkish people could not tolerate a liberal journalist of Armenian origin. Can there be any greater harm to our country?”