Friday, March 09, 2007


Agence France Presse -- English
March 7, 2007 Wednesday 5:24 PM GMT

A Turkish man accused of firing in the air outside an Armenian church claimed Wednesday his real target had been Patriarch Mesrob II, the spiritual leader of the tiny Armenian community, the Anatolia news agency reported.

"I had prepared it for (Mesrob) Mutafyan II," Volkan Karova shouted to reporters here as he and fellow suspect Yilmaz Can Ozalp were being escorted to the prosecutor's office to give their testimony, the agency reported.

It was not clear whether he had intended to physically attack the patriarch or scare him.

Later Wednesday, a court charged the two men with "threatening by firing shots" and "carrying an unlicensed gun" and sent them to jail pending trial, the agency said.

The pair had been arrested late Sunday just hours after two men fired a shot in the air outside a church in the city's Kumkapi district.

At the time, a ceremony was being held there for slain ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

The ceremony at the church, on the European side of Istanbul, was to mark the 40th day since Dink, the 52-year-old ethnic Armenian editor of the bilingual Agos weekly, was shot dead outside his office.

It was led by Patriarch Mesrob II, who represents the 80,000 Armenians in Turkey.

Anxiety has engulfed the Armenian community and intellectuals since Dink's murder on Januray 19, and in recent interviews Mesrob II has said that his office had been receiving threats.

Dink had angered nationalist circles and the courts for describing the World War I massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide, a label that Ankara fiercely rejects.

Nine people have so far been charged over his murder, which prosecutors believe was the work of ultra-nationalists.

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