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Compass – State medical examiners in Istanbul have been ordered to provide a second opinion in October on whether Turkish Christian Yakup Cindilli sustained permanent damage from being beaten into a coma by nationalists nearly two years ago. But with Cindilli missing from home for the past three months, it is unclear whether forensic experts will be able to find and examine the victim to provide final conclusions before the Orhangazi Criminal Court in northwestern Turkey .

At a July 8 hearing of the Orhangazi Criminal Court, forensic doctors from nearby Bursa presented results of physical examinations of the 34-year-old Cindilli. Ordered after a 15-month recess to allow adequate recovery time, the tests concluded that he still had not fully recovered from his extensive physical injuries and psychological trauma.

But defense lawyers for Cindilli’s three attackers — the president of the local chapter of the Nationalist Movement Party and two younger assailants — objected to the medical findings filed to the court.

Accordingly, the new presiding judge assigned to the case called for further physical examinations to be conducted by Istanbul experts and presented at the next court hearing, set for October 6.

A former Muslim who converted to Christianity four years ago, Cindilli was subjected to a severe beating in October 2003 that left him hospitalized in a coma for six weeks. When he regained consciousness and was sent home to recover, he could not walk unassisted and sometimes failed to recognize his closest relatives. (See Compass Direct, “Attackers Critically Injure Turkish Christian,” October 31, 2003.)

But Cindilli was not present at the July hearing, and his whereabouts have been unknown ever since.

The injured Christian’s family has since confirmed that he left their home, where he had lived for the past year and a half, in early June. He has not returned to Orhangazi or contacted them since. Cindilli’s religiously conservative Muslim family had remained strongly opposed his conversion to Christianity.

Nor has he been in touch with Ismail Kulakcioglu, pastor of the Bursa Protestant Church that Cindilli sometimes attended. He has surfaced a few times over the summer, however, at various Christian gatherings in Istanbul .

Through exercises and therapy begun in January of this year, Cindilli had regained control over most of his physical movements, but he still did not have full use of his right arm. Although unable to hold a full-time job, for a few months he took a cleaning job at his church.

According to Bursa Christians who interacted with Cindilli until early June, he was displaying the emotional maturity of an adolescent. His commitment to his Christian faith, however, seemed quite strong.

“We don’t know where he is living,” Kulakcioglu admitted. But acquaintances who have seen him in Istanbul said he appeared to be relatively penniless, living on the streets.

One Protestant Christian who saw him several times in the past two months said he talked about needing money and finding a way to leave Turkey . “He just comes and goes,” said another. “We talk, but he’s hard to understand, and he doesn’t say what he’s thinking.”

“He is acting very independently,” Kulakcioglu said. “He doesn’t contact his family, and when he meets other Christians he knows, he cannot establish a relationship with them.”

Since Cindilli did not attend the July 8 hearing, he may not know that the court ordered that he be re-examined physically and psychologically, with another hearing scheduled to report the results.

At the time of the attack, local newspapers reported that Cindilli’s attackers had accused the Turkish Christian of passing out New Testaments and doing “missionary propaganda” in his hometown. Neither accusation is a criminal offense under Turkish civil law.

Although the three attackers still face serious charges of battery and assault over the attack, Kulakcioglu said he believed Cindilli was under considerable pressure from his family to drop the case.