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Malatya Murder Trial Set To Open
Local press sensationalizes killers’ justifications for deaths by torture.

11/5/07 Turkey (Compass Direct News) – Malatya’s Third Criminal Court has set November 23 to open the trial of the confessed murderers of Turkish convert Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and a German Christian, Tilmann Geske.

All news about the pending trial in the Turkish press last week sensationalized justifications the killers offered for their crimes while under police interrogation, including far-fetched allegations against the victims.

The three Protestant Christians were tortured and killed by having their throats cut on April 18 of this year in the Zirve Publishing Company’s office in the southern province of Malatya.

After six months of confidential investigations, criminal prosecutors in Malatya had filed formal charges against the five accused killers on October 15, demanding the jailed culprits serve three consecutive life sentences in prison for their crimes.

Defendants Emre Gunaydin, Abuzer Yildirim, Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir and Salih Guler are accused of founding an armed group and murdering the victims in a deliberate, organized manner. The five killers are 19 and 20 years old.

An additional seven persons have also been charged for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the murder culprits. According to reports in the Turkish media, these seven unnamed suspects have not been arrested.

News on the pending trial date in the Turkish press sensationalized some scandalous allegations appearing in the killers’ official interrogation statements. All the reports were based primarily on an initial release from the Anatolian Agency, a semi-official news source close to the government.

One headline of one of the most repeated claims read, “Missionaries were linked with the PKK,” highlighting the murderers’ claim that the three Christians had “praised” the violent, separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The terrorist PKK group has killed more than 40 Turkish soldiers and civilians during the past month near Turkey’s southern border with Iraq. At least 30,000 Turkish citizens have died in clashes between the PKK and the Turkish military since 1984.

Sabah newspaper’s headline quoted Emre Gunaydin, the alleged ringleader of the five killers, as saying, “We committed murder out of fear they would harm our families.”

One newspaper, the widely circulated Hurriyet, targeted a Protestant pastor in western Turkey by naming him in its headline. The report quoted Gunaydin’s claim that he had planned to travel to kill the pastor once they had murdered the other three.

Most of the news reports also repeated Gunaydin’s claim that the Christians were forcing local girls into prostitution.

“It is clear from these statements of the suspects that there is some group of powerful influence behind them,” spokesperson Isa Karatas of the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey told Compass. “These people want to portray Turkey’s Protestants as enemies of the nation.

“At the same time,” he added, “because honor is such an important concept in our culture, they are trying to accuse us of having weak morals, so that they can find a justification for their murders.”

The slayers had claimed the motive for the gruesome torture and murder of Aydin, Yuksel and Geske was to stop Christians from defaming Islam and the Turkish nation.

The three Christian victims left behind two widows, five fatherless children and a fiancée.