ANASAYFA Forum TURKISH CHRISTIAN FORUM (in English) Persecution Turks accused of killing Christians go on trial

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    Turks accused of killing Christians go on trial

    · Three died in brutal attack during Bible study group
    · Case begins amid growing intolerance to minorities

    Helena Smith

  • The Guardian,
    [*]Saturday November 24 2007
    [*]Article historyAbout this article

    This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday November 24 2007 on p32 of the International section. It was last updated at 23:53 on November 23 2007.

    Seven months after a German and two Turks were murdered in a Bible publishing house in eastern Turkey, the five men accused of the crime filed into court yesterday for their long-awaited trial.
    The case is seen as a test of how the country will handle mounting intolerance towards non-Muslim minorities. It began at a time of draconian security and heightened nationalist fervour after attacks by Kurdish separatists.
    The members of a Protestant missionary group were killed during a Bible study class in Malatya on April 18. Their attackers tied the men to their chairs, targeting Tilmann Geske, a German father of three, before turning to Pastor Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel. By the time police arrived, the Turkish converts had been virtually decapitated, with their buttocks, testicles, stomachs and backs repeatedly stabbed, their fingers sliced and throats slashed from ear-to-ear. The accused, all between 19 and 20, allegedly filmed clips on their mobile phones.
    “I remember [the accused] attending our Easter gathering of believers. They were boys, not even men,” Geske’s widow, Susanne, told the Guardian in an interview earlier this year. “In Turkey, you hear so many stories about missionaries: that we are agents of foreign powers who secretly want to break up the state, that we hide $100 bills in Bibles to bribe believers, things that are so untrue.”
    The killings followed other high-profile attacks on minorities. Last February, Hrant Dink, an Armenian journalist who dared to address Turkey’s great taboo – the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 – was shot dead by a 17-year-old outside his office in Istanbul.
    Twelve months earlier, Andrea Santoro, an Italian priest, was killed by a teenager as he prayed in his church in Trabzon.
    Lawyers representing the victims’ families say the murders mirror the rising tide in Turkey of isolationist, ultra-nationalist sentiment. “Hatred towards missionaries has been actively cultivated and is directly linked to the resurgence in nationalism,” Mrs Geske’s lawyer, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, said. “This trial is unbelievably important because these were the last in a chain of murders in which the perpetrators were youngsters who were indoctrinated and exploited. If we don’t get a clear picture of who were behind them, it is very likely such murders will happen again.”
    Few in Turkey have felt the resurgence of violent nationalism more than Christians, who at the last count comprised less than 1% of the population.
    “You live in a world of shadows, looking over your shoulder all the time,” said Canon Ian Sherwood of the Anglican church in Istanbul. “There are certain historic sensitivities one should respect in Turkey but this is also a country that professes to be a secular democracy and yet innocent individuals are persecuted for pursuing what they would be allowed to do in any other free society.” The trial was adjourned until January.

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