A Turkish court has sentenced a teenage boy to 18 years in prison for killing an Italian Catholic priest earlier this year.

The court in the Black Sea city of Trabzon says the boy was found guilty of premeditated murder, possessing a weapon without a license and threatening public security.

The identity of the 16-year old defendant was not revealed.

Father Andrea Santoro was killed in February as he prayed in a church in Trabzon. Witnesses say the attacker shouted "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is Great," as he fired two bullets into the priest's back.

The attack happened during increased worldwide tensions over caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad published in Europe.

Pope Benedict paid public tribute to the slain priest after the killing, and expressed hope the death would spark dialogue among people of different faiths. The pontiff is to visit Turkey next month.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.