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Alleged Instigators Named In Malatya Murders

Christians called to fast, pray ahead of trial; European parliamentarians demand justice.

9/28/07 Turkey (Compass Direct News) – An e-mail message to several Turkish Protestant leaders in June surfaced in the Turkish press last week, revealing the names of Malatya officials alleged to have plotted the murder of three Christians there last April.

The Firat (Mediterranean) News Agency (ANF) reported on September 18 that an anonymous e-mail message signed simply, “A.A.” had named a colonel in the Malatya gendarmerie, along with an Islamic faculty member, as instigators of the plot to kill the three Christians.

The ANF article identified the petty officer as Mehmet Ulger but gave only the initials of several others.

A subsequent release from Birgun newspaper on September 19, however, listed the name of the faculty member as Ruhi Babat. It also identified a member of parliament from Malatya , one military commander and another suspect, all allegedly involved in the plot.

“After what happened in Malatya , I decided to write this e-mail as my duty as a citizen,” the message read, claiming that the murder conspiracy had been planned for four or five months.

“No matter how careful they have been in their telephone conversations,” the anonymous accuser said, “I believe their links can be revealed by a directed search.”

According to Birgun, Babat has written a university thesis on missionary activities in Turkey . Turkish Protestants and their lawyer confirmed to Compass that, after receiving the now publicized e-mail message, they had promptly turned it over to the Malatya prosecutor’s office.

On April 18 at the Zirve Publishing office in Malatya in southeastern Turkey, two Turkish converts to Christianity and a German Christian were bound hand and foot, tortured with multiple stab wounds and had their throats cut. The victims were pastor Necati Aydin, 36; Ugur Yuksel, 32; and Tilmann Geske, 46.

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.

Song Criticizes Victims

The Malatya revelations were further stoked in the public forum on September 21, when FOX TV’s widely viewed Friday night “Objective” talk show hosted a controversial Turkish folk singer and his lyricist.

Singer Ismail Turut and lyrics writer Arif Sirin are facing possible criminal charges for their racist song “Don’t Make Any Plans,” which appeared earlier this month with video images on website YouTube eulogizing the teenage killer of Armenian Christian journalist Hrant Dink last January.

The song concludes with the words, “If a person betrays the country, he is finished off. The sun of Turks and Islam will never set in the Black Sea .” During the broadcast, Sirin expressed hostile views against Christian missionary activities in Turkey , criticizing the three murdered Christians for “selling snails [forbidden food for observant Muslims] in a Muslim neighborhood.”

“In Malatya missionaries were murdered and killed, that’s out of the question,” Sirin said. “But [they were saying] ‘We are selling snails in a Muslim neighborhood.’ Now look here, you can’t do that! Who are you selling to? I’ll take those snails and shove them up the appropriate place in that man.”

No date has been announced for opening the murder trial, although last week the lead prosecutor indicated to the lawyer heading the legal team representing the Christian victims that the investigation would be completed “within a few weeks.”

Because the crime was classified by Turkish authorities as an act of terrorism, the Christians’ lawyers have yet to examine any of the investigative evidence, including the official autopsies. “But as soon as the date for the trial is set by the courts, we will be given access to all the files on the case,” attorney Orhan Kemal Cengiz told Compass today by telephone.

Last week Prof. Ibrahim Kabogku publicly questioned the Turkish government’s right to withhold critical evidence in major terrorism cases such as the Malatya murders. The government has claimed that “state secrets” that required confidentiality must remain behind the curtain of “national security.”

Quoted in the Milliyet newspaper on September 18, Kaboglu declared, “A state secret is against the state. Even in a murder case, rather than hurting the state by using the excuse of a state secret, the state should be obliged to apply impartial law.”

In two recent, high-profile cases involving murdered Christians, the state prevented full disclosure of the investigations by classifying them behind the curtain of “confidentiality.”

Questions still remain over the judicial proceedings convicting a teenage boy of killing Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, and earlier this month Trabzon Governate authorities refused to turn over evidence requested by lawyers in the Dink murder trial.

Cengiz said he would protest if the Malatya courts denied his team access to all the investigative evidence to protect alleged “state secrets.”

Call to Fasting

The Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey is calling on Christian congregations throughout the country to designate each Thursday in the coming weeks for prayer and fasting for the upcoming murder trial, as well as for other cases in Turkish courts addressing the rights and freedoms of Christian citizens.

“God has been honored through the martyrdom of Necati, Ugur and Tilmann for their faith,” said Semse Aydin, widow of Necati Aydin. “So we must pray that He will also be honored through this trial, that the truth will come out, and justice will be done.”

Aydin noted that seven years ago, when her husband was jailed in Izmir for 30 days on false charges against his Christian activities, the church prayed and fasted, and the accusers withdrew their complaints at the first court hearing.

“It was really a miracle that these villagers stood up in court and admitted that they had been forced by gendarmerie officials to sign prepared complaints against Necati and his colleague, and that the written statements were not true,” Aydin said.

Europe Demands Justice

In a draft resolution released last week that goes up for debate in late October in Brussels, the European Parliament “strongly condemns” the slaying of the three Christian missionaries, declaring that the Turkish government must “bring full light” upon this case and bring all responsible to justice.

Underlining “the urgent need to efficiently combat all types of extremism and violence and to ban them from all levels of public life in Turkey ,” the resolution’s 13th paragraph calls for Turkish government measures to “increase the protection of those groups, minorities or individuals who feel exposed to threat.”

According to the 2007 report by the U.S. Department of State on religious freedom in Turkey, released September 14, there were multiple religiously motivated “violent attacks and threats against non-Muslims” that “created an atmosphere of pressure and diminished freedom for some non-Muslim communities.”

“Public debates ensued over the government’s response to these attacks and threats,” the report continues, noting that religious pluralism was widely viewed by the Turkish population as “a threat to Islam and to national unity.”