Turkish teenager risks life for priest’s murder

Ankara, Turkey - A prosecutor has sought a life sentence for a 16-year-old Turkish boy for the February murder of an Italian Catholic priest in the northern city of Trabzon, the NTV news channel reported on Wednesday.

The indictement charged the minor, identified only by his initials, O.A., with wilful homicide for shooting Father Andrea Santoro, 61, at the Black Sea city’s Santa Maria Catholic Church on February 5.

The prosecutor also sought additional prison terms of one year for possession of an unlicensed weapon and six months to three years for deliberately endangering public order, NTV said.

The suspect will be judged under juvenile law, it added.

Under Turkish law, the court to hear the case must approve the indictement for the trial to begin.

The defendant’s lawyer, Mahya Usta, told AFP she had not yet received the indictment from the prosecutor’s office.

The motive for Santoro’s killing is not clear, but witnesses said the killer shouted “Allahu Akhbar” (”God Is Great”) as he fired two shots at the priest before fleeing.

The Turkish media have also speculated that the murder may have been triggered by the Muslim uproar over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in European newspapers, or for his missionary work, usually viewed with suspicion in Turkey.

Another theory to emerge at the time of the killing was that Santoro may have been killed by the sex trade mafia for helping prostitutes from former Soviet countries, who are usually brought to Turkey via Trabzon.

Turkish officials say the murder appears to have been an isolated act, but they are investigating whether anyone instigated the killing or abetted the teenager.

The murder drew strong condemnation from the Ankara government and triggered public outrage in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country with a strictly secular system of government, which is seeking to join the European Union.