Father Andrea Santoro, seen here in 2005, was shot by then-16 year-old Oguzhan Akdin in 2006 at St. Mary Church in Trabzon, Turkey. Akdin was among thousands of prisoners released by the Turkish government following an attempted coup in July. Photo/courtesy of Associazione Don Andrea Onlus

Turkey gives early release to man convicted of murdering priest

By  Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
  • August 30, 2016

ROME – A man imprisoned for killing an Italian Catholic priest in Turkey was released after serving almost half of his 18-year sentence.

Oguzhan Akdin was among thousands of prisoners released early from prison in Turkey to make room for new prisoners allegedly involved in a July coup attempt, reported Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Following the July 15-16 coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency, allowing his government to rule by decree and suspend some rights and freedoms.

Thousands of civilians, government employees and military personnel have been detained or imprisoned for their suspected involvement in the failed coup attempt.

Akdin was found guilty of committing murder in 2006 of Italian Father Andrea Santoro, who was shot twice in the head while he prayed at St. Mary Church in Trabzon, Turkey.

Witnesses say Akdin, who was 16 at the time, shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great") while he shot the priest. After his arrest, Akdin said he murdered the priest in response to cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad published in Denmark.

Despite Akdin's confession, observers had expressed doubt about the swiftness of the investigation, Fides reported. The suspect's young age also guaranteed a lighter sentence than those given to an adult under similar circumstances.

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