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Press Leaks Murder Suspect’s ‘Secret’ Deposition

Accused killer names another pastor he planned to kill.

5/22/07 Turkey (Compass Direct News) – Turkish newspapers have started leaking extensive details from secret police interrogations of the last of five suspects charged with murdering three Christians in Malatya last month.

In one of the most alarming reports, published on Sunday (May 20), accused killer Emre Gunaydin allegedly told police investigators that he had planned to murder another Protestant pastor after the Malatya attack.

The intended victim was identified in the news reports by his city and distinctive first name, as well as his relationship by marriage to one of the Malatya victims. He requested that his name be withheld for this report.

The illegal disclosures came on the heels of Gunaydin’s medical discharge and subsequent jailing on May 19, after being hospitalized for 31 days from severe head injuries. The suspect fell from a third-story drainpipe trying to escape police on the day of the crime.

Two Turkish converts to Christianity and a German Christian were bound hand and foot, tortured with multiple stab wounds and then their throats cut on April 18 at the Zirve Publishing office in Malatya, in southeastern Turkey. The four other attackers besides Gunaydin were arrested at the scene.

The daily Milliyet claimed on May 20 to have a copy of Gunaydin’s police deposition. According to reporter Tolga Sardan, the suspect claimed that a Turkish Christian he had met over the Internet told him that the governments of the United States and Israel were “behind” the activities of this pastor he wanted to kill.

“In Turkey , all this is meant to point him out as a target for an attack, and to put a price on his head,” Istanbul pastor Carlos Madrigal said yesterday. Three weeks ago the intended victim was offered and accepted security police protection offered by the government.

“We did not expect two of Turkey ’s largest newspapers to print something like this,” Ankara pastor Ihsan Ozbek told Compass. Ozbek said he had written a letter of protest to the daily Milliyet, both for breaking the law and deliberately targeting individual Christians.

“How can the Turkish press get this secret information?” asked the targeted pastor who requested anonymity, calling Compass from his home, which the Turkish media have staked out since May 20.

Malatya prosecutor Huseyin Sari Omeroglu told Compass emphatically three times over the telephone from his office, “Our interrogations are secret.”

Although Omeroglu insisted the deposition remained absolutely confidential by court order, he declined to comment on how national newspapers could have obtained a copy of the document.

The news coordinator of a local newspaper that published the targeted pastor’s last name and photograph in today’s edition reportedly told him, “All the newspapers are writing this. This is information that was given out by the security police.”

The same paper reported the arrest of a young Christian man Gunaydin had identified by name as his Internet contact. When telephoned by Compass today, the news coordinator said local police had told his newspaper about the young man’s arrest. So far as he knew, he said, he was still being held in custody.

But a member of a local church told Compass the young man had only been held for a day of questioning.

“Within the first week after the murders, a dozen or more police came to his home, gathered up all his Christian books and flew him out to Malatya ,” the source said. “He was released by the end of the day and came back home by bus. But now he is a bit afraid to attend church services any more, especially since his name is in the papers now.”

Clear Religious Motives

In his reported deposition, Gunaydin repeatedly stressed his religious motives in planning and executing the attack. Earlier that morning, he said, the attackers wrote farewell notes to their families and then performed a “thanksgiving prayer” together before going to the Zirve office.

“My purpose was just to frighten them from doing Christian propaganda,” he was quoted as saying in Sabah newspaper. “But then, when that infidel said, ‘You will all worship Jesus,’ I lost myself. After that I don’t remember what I did.”

“I saw that in recent years Christian work had advanced in Malatya ,” Gunaydin told his interrogators. “I thought that those involved in missionary activities needed to be told ‘Stop!’”

The murder victims were Pastor Necati Aydin, 36, married with two children; Ugur Yuksel, 32, single; and Tilmann Geske, 46, married with three children.

According to an article in yesterday’s Hurriyet newspaper, Gunaydin introduced himself to Aydin as a person without any religion. He said Aydin told him, “Islam was spread by the sword, but the essence of Christianity is love.”

Gunaydin reportedly went on to claim, “The German and Necati defamed our government and our religion.”

The ritual slayings appeared to be a deliberate observance of the Quranic instruction to “strike terror into the hearts of unbelievers” by smiting them above the neck and striking every finger (Surah 8:12). The victims’ fingertips were sliced repeatedly and their windpipes and esophagi severed.

Although Gunaydin admitted he had planned the Malatya attack, he denied having killed the victims himself, claiming that it was his accomplices who slit the Christians’ throats. While Gunaydin was still in a coma, the other attackers reportedly said he was the one who actually committed the murders.

“The murders were not part of a plan,” Gunaydin reportedly said. “However, when Geske swore at my sister, events got out of control.”

Using typical ultranationalist jargon throughout his statement, Gunaydin reportedly accused the Christian victims of having close connections with the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist group, and of using a prostitution ring to entice Turkish girls to support their church activities. He based both claims on hearsay alone.

The leaked deposition was a clear breach of Turkish law, which forbids the release of initial interrogation transcripts on all criminal cases linked to terrorism.

According to Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a lawyer representing the Turkish Alliance of Protestant Churches in the case, the Malatya authorities are still refusing to give him a copy of Gunaydin’s deposition.

When approached last week in Malatya, prosecutor Omeroglu also refused to let widowed Semsa Aydin see her late husband’s autopsy, declaring it had to be kept secret because it was a terrorism case.

Deliberate Media Antagonism

This week’s provocative news reports follow a decades-long pattern of antagonistic and false reporting from the Turkish media against Christians.

Just three days after the Malatya murders, Sabah newspaper targeted a British Christian living in Malatya , publishing his full name and complete home address.

In the April 21 article, reporter Mevlut Yuksel claimed that the expatriate had tried in vain to telephone and visit the “Kayra Publishing” office on the morning of the murders. The Sabah reporter claimed the expatriate finally reached Necati Aydin on his mobile telephone, only to hear him say, “Beware, don’t come here!”

But the targeted Britisher told Compass the Sabah account was full of lies. “He just made up things!” he said.

“Just before Tilmann’s funeral, the reporter came to my door and asked for an interview. But I told him I didn’t want to give an interview. Then he said, ‘If you don’t talk to us, then we won’t be responsible. Don’t blame us for what we write.’”

Threats and Attacks Continue

A flurry of threats and incidents of attempted violence against Turkish Protestants and their places of worship have been documented by Compass over the four weeks since the Malatya murders.

The threats have ranged from e-mail, telephone and postal messages to face-to-face warnings. Most of the Christians involved asked that the incidents not be reported publicly.

But Diyarbakir pastor Ahmet Guvener told the press two days after the murders that he had issued an official power of attorney for his wife and children to a trusted friend. “Certain individuals are continually making us a target,” he said. “I know that they will kill me.”

Two attacks have been reported against the Eskisehir church of the Istanbul Protestant Foundation since the Malatya killings, the most recent attempt last weekend.

Windows on the second floor of the building were broken out and several Molotov cocktails thrown at the church on Saturday night (May 19). Although a car parked next to the building started to burn, neighbors managed to put it out.

Local police had been stationed to protect the Eskisehir church since an earlier attempt to burn it down the previous week. But when a disturbance broke out on Saturday night in another area of the city, the guards were called away, leaving the church unguarded.

“We have detected a passive attitude in the political will of the authorities, who are now focused on the July 22 elections,” Pastor Madrigal said. “Their negligence towards this kind of intolerance will affect negatively all the society.”

In a formal statement released yesterday, the Istanbul Protestant Foundation expressed shock and dismay over the “inexplicable irresponsibility” demonstrated in leaking Gunaydin’s confidential, unconfirmed police deposition to the press, thereby “targeting innocent individuals with lies.”

After three days of interrogations conducted by a 24-member team of experts from the terrorism division of Turkey ’s General Security Directorate, Gunaydin appeared before Malatya ’s Third Criminal Court on May 19. He was promptly sent to prison awaiting trial on accusations of “forming a terrorist cell, directing activities to kill persons and trying to deprive individual freedoms.”

According to a Vatan newspaper report, the court ordered psychiatric testing of Gunaydin to determine his mental condition.