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Compass (12/19/05) – For the third time in six months, Turkish Christian Yakup Cindilli has failed to appear at court hearings against the ultra-nationalists who beat him into a coma two years ago for distributing New Testaments in his hometown.

The clerk of the Orhangazi Criminal Court near Bursa , in northwestern Turkey , confirmed to Compass last week that Cindilli had not attended a hearing on Thursday (December 15). Cindilli, 34, was also absent at the two previous court hearings scheduled on October 6 and July 8.

The partially recovered Christian had left Orhangazi last June, apparently circulating in various areas of Istanbul over the summer months. Although Cindilli told a friend in early October that he had returned to live with his family, Compass has been unable to confirm this.

With Cindilli’s exact whereabouts unknown, it is presumed that he may not have known about the hearings scheduled on his case. It is also unclear whether he knows that in July the presiding judge had ordered him to undergo a second set of medical tests in Istanbul . Results of those tests were to be compared with initial findings by forensic examiners in Bursa .

At the July 8 hearing, defense lawyers for Cindilli’s attackers had objected to the results of the first medical examinations, which concluded that the injured Christian had sustained permanent physical and psychological damage.

A convert from Islam to Christianity, Cindilli was hospitalized in a coma for six weeks after the president of the Orhangazi branch of the Nationalist Party Movement (MHP) and two younger assailants dragged him into the local MHP headquarters and gave him a severe beating on October 19, 2003.

Local newspapers in Orhangazi had reported that Cindilli’s attackers 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 his assailants were jailed, one was released a month later and the other two granted bail after three months.

When Cindilli regained consciousness and was sent home to recover, he could not walk unassisted and sometimes failed to recognize his closest relatives. Although he recovered physical strength, he had not regained full use of his right arm and continued to experience extreme emotional swings.

Cindilli is from a religiously conservative Muslim family that had strongly opposed his conversion to Christianity. Although his relatives filed criminal charges of assault and battery against his attackers, they are believed to have pressured him in recent months to drop the case.

Cindilli’s last known contact with other Turkish Christians was around the first of October, when he talked briefly at a bookshop with Ismail Kulakcioglu, pastor of the Bursa Protestant Church where he occasionally worshipped. Cindilli indicated at the time that he had moved back home to live with his family in Orhangazi.

The Orhangazi judge has postponed the criminal court hearing on Cindilli’s case until March 16.