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Police in Turkey Thwart Plot to Assassinate a Pastor

ICC Note: In 2012 Christian pastor, Emre Karaali received a death threat which he reported to the police. Since then, the police have been working on a case to discover who wanted him dead. This week they arrested 14 people thought to be in on a plot to kill the pastor and his family. Unfortunately, some of those involved in the plot had been attending the pastor's church for over a year, pretending to be converts to Christianity. One was even baptized over the summer. While it is a relief that the pastor and his family are safe, this once again  illuminates the dangers for Christians in Turkey, and the lengths their enemies will go to harm them.

01/18/2013 Istanbul (WWM) -Police in Turkey say they thwarted an assassination plot against a Christian pastor Tuesday when they arrested 14 suspects, two of whom had been part of his congregation for more than a year.

Emre Karaali, pastor of Izmit Protestant Church and the target of the alleged plot, said two of the arrested suspects were regular members, feigning interest in Christianity. One of them, he said, participated in a baptism in July.

Some of the other suspects also had visited the church, Karaali told World Watch Monitor. He said three of the suspects are women.

“These people had infiltrated our church and collected information about me, my family and the church and were preparing an attack against us,” said Karaali, 33, a native Turk and a convert to Christianity. “Two of them attended our church for over a year and they were like family.”

Accounts of the arrests in Turkish media reported that the suspects were planning to murder Karaali this week during a series of evangelistic outreach meetings.

“They caught them last minute,” said Hakan Tastan, an Istanbul Christian who was visiting Izmit Wednesday. “If they had waited one week, we would have lost them,” he said, referring to the pastor, his family and potentially other church members.

The 14 had collected personal information, copies of personal documents, created maps of the church and the pastor’s home, and had photos of those who had come to Izmit to preach. In one of the homes raided by police, two guns were found, Turkish media reported. Police have recorded the telephone conversations of the 14 suspects.

Press reports said the Izmit anti-terror police decided to close in when they learned the network of suspects had brought in someone from Diyarbakir, in eastern Turkey, to carry out the murder.

“I received a threat by phone and that’s when the police started to investigate,” Karaali said. It’s not yet publicly known whether any of the suspects arrested Tuesday are connected to that initial phone threat.

Karaali said he declined police protection that was offered at that time, though his wife and two young children did move into an apartment building with better security. Another threat was made during the summer.

“They said, ‘You talk too much. We’re hearing your voice everywhere and we’re going to break your head.’ They didn’t say they’ll kill me exactly, but that if I didn’t shut up it would be bad.” Police have not revealed whether any of the 14 suspects arrested this week are suspected of making the threat.

Karaali said he intends to continue to pastor his small flock.

“Two years ago I almost lost my life because of my health, but the Lord brought me back to life and he has done this for me again,” he said. “He protects us, so we believe this means the Lord has work for us to do. We haven’t lost our confidence. On the contrary, we feel the Lord is with us because he didn’t allow this (assassination) to happen, and we will continue to do what the Lord asks. We will continue. We will continue.”

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