Saturday, February 03, 2007

Scandal tails death of Turkey journalist

Fri Feb 2, 10:51 AM ET

ISTANBUL, Turkey - The Turkish media published photographs and video on Friday of police posing with a teenager charged with killing an ethnic Armenian journalist, and newspapers denounced the officers for treating the suspect as a "hero."

The photographs show 17-year-old nationalist Ogun Samast holding out a Turkish flag and posing with officers, some in uniform. Behind Samast, a poster with another Turkish flag carries the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of modern Turkey: "The nation's land is sacred. It cannot be left to fate."

Samast is charged with the Jan. 19 killing of Hrant Dink, a 52-year-old ethnic Armenian journalist who had angered Turkish nationalists with repeated assertions that the mass killings of Armenians around the time of World War I was genocide.

The Turkish media was outraged by the photographs and video. "Shoulder to shoulder with the triggerman: suspected killer Samast was given the hero treatment," the Sabah daily reported on its front page.

Later Friday, the state-owned Anatolia news agency reported that four police officers in Samsun, where the photographs were taken, had been dismissed and four military police officers had been moved to other assignments.

It was not clear whether the eight officers were the ones posing with Samast.

Initial reports said the photos were taken at a military police office at the bus station where Samast was captured, but military police said they were taken at a police station nearby.

"The military police personnel seen in the images were personnel assigned to hand over the suspect to the police," a statement from military police headquarters said.

The statement urged the media to be cautious in publicizing "attempts aimed at fraying the Turkish Armed Forces" and expressed concern about the motives of those who leaked the images.

More than 100,000 people marched at Dink's funeral, many of them chanting for Turkey to abolish a repressive article in the penal code used against many intellectuals, including Dink, who spoke openly on controversial topics.

It is a crime to insult Turkey or the Turkish national character.

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