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(Compass) In what the Hurriyet newspaper called a “jet acquittal,” a criminal court in southeastern Turkey dropped all charges yesterday against a Protestant pastor accused of opening an “illegal” church. Pastor Ahmet Guvener was fully acquitted in the opening hearing of his case before Diyarbakir’s Third Criminal Court. The quick resolution of the case surprised both Guvener and his lawyer, Abdul Kadir Pekdemir, who said a criminal case typically extends for a year or more before a verdict is issued. But when Judge Necla Ipek asked State Prosecutor Vahdettin Taskiran to present the government’s case against Guvener, Taskiran declared that no sufficient grounds existed to bring charges. Instead, Taskiran stressed that under recent reforms passed in Parliament, international agreements now take precedence over national laws, granting Turkish citizens the right both individually and in community to conduct worship, as well as to teach and propagate their faith. Moments later, Ipek declared Guvener acquitted and the case closed. “It’s a great step forward for Turkey,” Guvener told Compass afterward, “for Christians here, for religious freedom, for democracy.”