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06 10 11 - Murderer of Italian Priest Sentenced to 18 Years
HOT NEWS 10.11.2006 Wednesday - ISTANBUL 09:22
By Cihan News Agency -Tuesday, October 10, 2006
A Turkish court has found 16 year old O.A. guilty and sentenced him to 18 years and three months in prison for the killing of an Italian priest, Andrea Santaro, in the northeastern Turkish province of Trabzon last February.

The suspect appeared before the Trabzon Heavy Penal Court on Tuesday for the ninth hearing of the trial. Chief judge Kaya Gulec announced that the court’s verdict and convicted him to a total of 18 years 10 months- 16 years and eight months for murder, one year and one month for illegal possession of arms and one year one month for threatening the public safety.

A life sentence was sought for the 16-year-old by the public prosecutor who filed the indictment.

On Feb. 5, the 16-year-old suspect entered the Santa Maria Catholic Church and shot the priest to death. Turkish police captured O.A. just three days after the incident, and he had been in police custody since.

Defense lawyer Mahya Usta said that he had expected such a decision, adding that he would appeal the verdict.

The parents of the suspect burst into tears after the hearing as they reacted to the decision, claiming it was too severe for a minor.

The accused was tried as a minor as he is under the age 18. Ballistics tests confirmed that the handgun used in the priest's killing belonged to the suspect's father.

The murder occurred in February when dozens of demonstrations were held worldwide in protest of European newspapers publishing cartoons of Islam’s prophet Mohammad.

The derogatory depiction of the Prophet Mohammed was first published in conservative Danish daily, Jyllands-Posten, in September of last year. Later, other papers in EU countries reprinted the cartoons "in support of the freedom of expression," stirring up a diplomatic storm in many Muslim countries.

Turkish officials; however, denied any link to the protests in Turkey.

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