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Turkey gives early release to man convicted of murdering priest

31 August 2016 | by Catholic News Service

Oguzhan Akdin was allegedly released early from prison to make room for new prisoners

A man imprisoned for killing an Italian Catholic priest in Turkey was released this week 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 Evangelisation of Peoples.

Following the 15-16 July 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 murdering Italian Father Andrea Santoro in 2006. The priest 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.

 

Photo: A prayer vigil in Rome to commemorate the death of Italian priest Andrea Santoro



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