The release of the Armenian journalist’s murderer portends a grim future, signalling the potential emergence of a new fascist figure, Agos newspaper editor Pakrat Estukyan suggested on Thursday.
The recent release of Ogün Samast, the convicted murderer of Agos Newspaper’s editor-in-chief Hrant Dink, has sparked controversy and criticism. Estukyan pointed out that Samast’s release reflects the Turkish government’s definition of a “desirable citizen”, hinting at a political bias in the decision.
Samast, who assassinated Dink in front of the Agos newspaper office on 19 January 2007, and was arrested the following day, has been released from Bolu F Type Prison after serving 16 years and 10 months. His release, deemed as a result of his ‘good conduct’, has reignited discussions about discriminatory practices in the execution of sentences for political and ill prisoners in Turkey, drawing widespread criticism from human rights advocates and various segments of society.
Estukyan, a close friend and ex-colleague of Dink, commented on the release, stating, “From the outset, Ogün Samast was seen as a ‘desirable citizen’ by the authorities due to his role in the Hrant Dink murder. His release, therefore, is not surprising. Despite being convicted of several charges related to the murder, these were subject to statute limitations, and he ultimately received an 11-year sentence. During his imprisonment, he was treated favourably, even getting married and advancing his personal life. Now, he has been released.”
Estukyan further highlighted the historical marginalisation and hate speech against Armenians in Turkey, noting that Samast’s release despite his crime carries significant implications. “This decision is not surprising for Armenians. We are aware of the persistent demonisation of our community. For us, Samast is a mere murderer, but for some, he is a national hero, celebrated for his nationalist fervour. This reflects the mindset that glorifies violent crimes against minorities.”
Addressing the broader implications of the case, Estukyan lamented the lack of accountability for those who instigated the murder. “Our demand in the Hrant Dink case has always been to prosecute those who ordered the killing. However, these figures have never been brought to light or tried. The judicial process has been manipulated from the beginning, with the Dink family’s and their lawyers’ requests for a broader investigation consistently denied. This reflects a long-standing politicisation of the judiciary in Turkey, where decisions are not made in line with international legal standards but rather based on nationalistic and state-protective motives.”
Concluding his remarks, Estukyan warned of the potential consequences of Samast’s release, saying, “Congratulations to the nation. We now potentially have a new fascist leader. If utilised effectively, he could emerge as a prominent figure in the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party], completing his transformation from a convicted murderer to a celebrated nationalist icon.”