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ISTANBUL - Hated by Turkish nationalists, at times misunderstood by his kinsmen, Hrant Dink, the Turkish journalist of Armenian origin who was murdered on Friday was also admired by many for his commitment to dialogue between the two communities.

"Because he sought reconciliation through truth, he was hated by hardliners on both sides. He was a target," said an editorial in Saturday's edition of the English-language daily Today's Zaman.

Dink, the53-year-old editor of bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, which he founded 10 years ago, was shot three times in the head and neck outside the newspaper's office in central Istanbul.

He had drawn the ire of the extreme-right in Turkey for his position on the World War I killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which preceded the Turkish republic.

In his public speeches, which were often intensely emotional, he never refrained from using the word "genocide", a term fiercely rejected by Turkey, to describe the 1915-1917 massacres.

Such statements led to several legal cases being brought against Dink and a six-month suspended jail term for insulting Turkishness. Hearings sometimes became a free-for-all during which nationalist lawyers threw insults at him.

The journalist, who was shy in private, also disappointed the Armenian diaspora by criticising a Frecnh parliamentary bill that makes it a jailable offence to deny that Armenians were the victims of a genocide.

"This is idiocy," he said in remarks to the liberal daily Radikal in October 2006. "It only shows that those who restrict freedom of expression in Turkey and those who try to restrict it in France are of the same mentality."

Dink risked further attacks by defending in court other people who faced prosecution for expressing their opinions, notably Nobel Literature Prize laureate Orhan Pamuk and novelist Perihan Magden.

"You came to my trial," Magden wrote in Saturday's Radikal. "When you saw the lynch mob at the entrance you did not go in, so as not to give the opportunity for provocation ... and you apologised afterwards for not being at my side."

Magden hailed Dink as "a true patriot" and "a man with a big heart".

Born into a modest family in Malatya, eastern Turkey, Dink moved with his parents to Istanbul at the age of seven. When they split up, he entered an Armenian orphanage with his two brothers.

He studied philosophy and zoology and took various jobs, including with the Armenian Church, running a children's holiday camp and a bookshop, before founding Agos in 1996.

Dink was married and had three children.

01/20/2007 15:25 GMT

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