Ogün Samast, convicted for the murder of prominent Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, has been released, leading to widespread criticism and intense debate in the Turkish parliament.
Samast assassinated Dink in a gun attack in front of the Agos office in Şişli, Istanbul, on 19 January 2007, and was released from Bolu F Type Prison under conditional release terms. A minor at the time of the crime, Samast served 16 years and 10 months, sentenced with “premeditated murder” and “possession of an unlicensed firearm”.
The Hrant Dink support group, known as ‘Hrant’ın Arkadaşları’, condemned the release, saying, “While the Hrant Dink murder remains unsolved, many of our friends, human rights defenders, journalists, and politicians are unjustly and unlawfully held in prisons, the murderer of Hrant Dink, Ogün Samast, has been released… There is no justice! No conscience! No integrity!”
Samast’s was reportedly released due to ‘good behaviour’. This decision has been met with strong criticism from various political leaders, who question the justification of releasing someone convicted of such a heinous crime.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Özgür Özel expressed disbelief and dismay at the release, highlighting the premeditated nature of the murder and its significant impact on the Armenian community in Turkey. He criticised the notion of ‘good behaviour’ in the context of such a brutal act.
Further political reactions include Parliament Deputy Speaker Sırrı Süreyya Önder of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), who paid respects to Dink’s memory, and Gökhan Günaydın, Deputy Group Chairman of the CHP, who emphasised Dink’s role in bridging the Armenian-Turkish divide. Günaydın also raised concerns about the justice system, questioning the rationale behind Samast’s release while many prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated.
HEDEP Group Deputy Chairwoman Meral Danış Beştaş described the release as a “grave news”, contrasting it with the ongoing imprisonment of democrats and freedom of expression advocates. Felicity Party Deputy Group Chairman İsa Mesih Şahin echoed these sentiments, criticising the paradox of releasing a convicted murderer while non-violent offenders remain jailed.
The release of Samast has reopened discussions on judicial reform and the influence of politics in legal proceedings, highlighting concerns over the treatment of criminals versus political prisoners in Turkey.