Middle East Concern released an concise and helpful update today on the trial of the five men charged with the murder of three Christians, Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske, at the Zirve Christian publishing house in Malatya, Eastern Turkey, in April 2007. The five men, aged 19 and 20 at the time, were arrested at the scene and have been held in custody ever since. Their trial opened in November 2007.
Here is the latest:
The most recent hearing took place on 21st August. The two witnesses who had failed to attend the previous hearing were in attendance. There were several notable developments.
First, one of the defendants admitted perjury for the second time. The defendant had previously named two people as having been involved in planning the murders, including one of the witnesses present on 21st August.
However, the defendant now said that this witness had not been involved. He told the judge that he had implicated him previously in an attempt to lessen his own punishment. At a hearing on 21st May he had also admitted perjury, retracting his implication against another man.
Second, these two men who had previously been implicated were released from detention in connection with this case (though one remains detained on unrelated criminal charges). This happened in spite of contradictions within the testimony given by one of them. Lawyers acting for the victims' families suspect that the two men had been involved in planning the murders, and believe that this defendant is acting to protect those truly behind the attack.
This turn of events continues to undermine the hopes of Turkish Christians that those behind the three murders will be identified and brought to justice. The concern of Christians is not only for justice concerning the murders, but also for effective challenge to the wider structural injustice whereby Christians are regarded as potential enemies within the state.
Recall that compensation claims lodged by the two widows, Semse and Suzanne, in September 2008 cite various government ministries as having (i) failed to detect the plot and prevent the murders, and (ii) created a culture conducive to violence against Christians because religious minorities are presented as "an internal threat, a danger and an enemy". These claims remain outstanding.
Third, the judge ordered an intelligence officer from the local gendarmerie headquarters to testify at the next hearing concerning his dealings with one of the two released witnesses.
Fourth, it has emerged that an informant in the military intelligence division of the Malatya gendarmerie headquarters sent a detailed report to state prosecutors two months ago describing the alleged role of the local gendarmerie commander in instigating the murders and the handling of the immediate aftermath on the day. It is not known how seriously local prosecutors are handling this development.
The next hearing was set for 16th October.
Turkish Christians request our continued prayers that:
a. Family members and close friends of the victims will know the presence and enabling of Jesus throughout the trial process
b. Justice will be done concerning the perpetrators, and that those behind them will be identified
c. Semse and Suzanne's legal team will know the Spirit's enabling, guiding and equipping
d. A positive outcome in this case and the compensation claim cases will in turn be instrumental in improving religious tolerance throughout Turkey
e. There would be renewed international attention towards this trial
f. The five perpetrators would feel a true and deep conviction about what they have done, and understand that their wrong-doing is not too great for Christ's forgiveness
g. The judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, feel the Spirit's conviction of sin and be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance
More information can also be found from Compass Direct.
You can also order the moving documentary Malatya from The Voice of the Martyrs, recounting the lives and martyrdom of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske. Includes moving interviews with their friends and families. Order your copy today!
Please uphold this trial and the families involved in your prayers. We invite you to post a prayer on their behalf on our online Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.