Three Christians killed in Malatya (Turkey)
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2007
Three people have been killed in an attack on a Turkish publishing house which prints Bibles and other Christian literature.
Reports said the victims' throats had been cut and that police had detained six people in connection with the incident on Wednesady at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya.
Television pictures showed casualties being carried out of the building and one man being restrained by police.
Nationalists had previously held a demonstration outside the publishing house, accusing it of proselytising, the private Dogan news agency reported.
The Zirve publishing house has been the site of previous protests by nationalists accusing it of proselytising in this 99 per cent Muslim but secular country, the news agency said.
Zirve's general manager told CNN-Turk television that his employees had recently been threatened.
“We know that they have been receiving some threats,” Hamza Ozant said, but could not say who made the threats.
The manner in which the victims were bound suggested that the attack could have been the work of a local Islamic extremist group, said commentators.
CNN-Turk said police were investigating the possible involvement of Turkish Hezbollah - a Kurdish Islamic organisation that aims to form a Muslim state in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast.
Turkish Hezbollah - which has been known to “hog-tie” its victims while torturing them - takes its name from the better-known Lebanon-based Hezbollah, but has no formal links to it. Turkish authorities recently said they were witnessing an increase in the group's activities.Of Turkey's 70 million people today, only about 65,000 are Armenian Orthodox Christians, 20,000 are Roman Catholic and 3,500 Protestant - mostly converts from Islam. Another 2,000 are Greek Orthodox Christians.
Turkey Christians Anxious After Muslims Kill Three Believers
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)— Christians in Turkey on Sunday, April 22, remained anxious amid fears of more violence after police arrested suspected Muslim militants believed to be involved in killing three evangelical believers at a Christian publishing house.
Police said they detained a dozen suspects linked to the slayings of a German man and two Turks, all former Muslims, who were found with their hands and legs tied and their throats slit at the Zirve publishing house in the town of Malatya Wednesday, April 18.
The German man, identified as 45-year-old interpreter Tilman Ekkehart Geske, had been living in Malatya since 2003. Two other Turkish Christians, Necati Aydin, 35, and Ugur Yuksel ,32, - were also found tied up and their throats slit.
Turkish media reports said the suspects were believed to be members of a cell of nationalist-Islamist extremists similar to one in the northern city of Trabzon blamed for the January murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
On Saturday, April 21, police detained a woman who was described as the girlfriend of one of the 11 suspects already in custody, Malatya Gov. Halil Dasoz told reporters.
Media reports said one of the other suspects tried to escape from police by jumping from a fourth floor balcony at the scene of the killings on Wednesday, April 18. Hospital officials reportedly said he was in stable condition and was improving.
The killings has added to concern within Turkey’s tiny Christian community about its future amid growing nationalism and intolerance following Dink’s killing and the shooting of Italian Roman Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in the town of Trabzon in February 2006..
As new details emerged about the killings, Geske’s wife Susanne Geske, said she did not harbor any thoughts of revenge, Evangelical news agency Idea reported. She said she had been living in Malatya for ten years and intends to stay there. Susanne Geske said she is hopeful that the aftermath of the murders will signal a new beginning for the relations between Christians and Muslims in Turkey. Many Muslims had shown their outrage about the murders and expressed their condolences to the bereaved.
In a statement monitored by BosNewsLife the Chairman of Turkey’s Protestant Churches’ Union, Bedri Peker said anti-Christian sentiment has been fostered by Turkey’s nationalist education system and encouraged by politicians and the media. Peker reportedly added that Turkey’s Christians have the right to worship freely and spread their faith through peaceful means, but they are regarded as what he called "spies and enemies of the state."
Ihsan Ozbek, the pastor of the Ankara-based Kurtulus Church that reportedly received many anonymous threats, told the Voice Of America (VOA) network that the government appeared reluctant to tackle the violence against Christians. He said no government official outside Malatya has contacted church officials to offer condolences.
Turkey’s government, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former Islamist, has expressed concern over the spread of Christian missionary activity in Turkey, VOA reported. Mehmet Aydin, minister of state in charge of religious affairs reportedly called missionaries "separatist and destructive."
In published remarks, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as Vatican secretary of state is Pope Benedict XVI’s top aide, called the attack "an insane act by a fanatic minority," and urged renewed dialogue. "We must not waste the fruits of the pope’s visit to Turkey, which has really brought us closer," Bertone was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA. But on Sunday, April 22, his words appeared wishful thinking. (With BosNewsLife Monitoring and reporting from Turkey).
Three Killed at Bible Publishing Firm
Attackers in Turkey have murdered three employees of a Christian publishing company including one German. The victims had their throats cut. Christian priests have been attacked on several occasions in Turkey over the past year.
Attackers in eastern Turkey murdered three employees of a Bible publishing company, including one German, on Wednesday.
The victims had their hands and feet tied and their throats slit, reports said. A fourth person escaped by jumping out of a window and is being treated in hospital.
The CNN-Turk news channel reported that six suspects have been detained. It showed bodies being carried out of the building of the Zirve publishing house in the town of Malatya. The company publishes Bibles and other Christian literature.
The Zirve publishing house had been the site of previous protests by nationalists and the company's director Hamza Ozant told CNN-Turk that his employees had been threatened recently.
The government and other officials in Turkey have in the past criticized Christian missionary work in the country while the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, has called for more freedom for the small Christian minority. The country is 99 percent Muslim, though officially secular. Some Turkish nationalists see Christian missionaries as enemies working to undermine Turkey's political and religious institutions.Malatya is known as a hotbed of nationalists, and is the hometown of Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981. Police are investigating the possibility that an Islamic militant group, Turkish Hezbollah, could be involved in the attack.
Last year a priest was shot dead in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, which coincided with worldwide protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Two other priests were also attacked last year.
Earlier this year, Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink was murdered by an ultranationalist, which prompted extra security measures to be taken for writers and journalists. Dink was also from Malatya.
Execution killings at Christian publishing house in Turkey
Three people were killed at a publishing house that prints books on Christianity in the eastern Turkish city of Malatya, officials said on Wednesday.
The victims had their feet and hands tied and had their throats slit, Malatya Governor Halil Ibrahim Dasoz told the NTV news channel.
"One of them is highly likely to be a German, the other is believed to be a Turk. The third is also likely to be a Turk, but we still have doubts," Dasoz said.
An aide to the Malatya governor told Agence France-Presse that the publishing house "was engaged in missionary activities."
The company had earlier received threats for printing books on Christianity, which were widely reported in the local press, NTV said.
Two were found dead in the third-storey office of the Zirve publishing house, while the third died in hospital, the governor said.
Two of the dead were reportedly employees of the publishing house.
Police detained four suspects at the crime scene, he said, adding that a fifth man, who was hospitalised with injuries after jumping from the window of the office, was also considered to be a suspect.
The chief physician of a local hospital said they were treating two injured men - one who suffered a head injury after jumping from the building and a second whose throat was slit.
"They are in serious condition," he told NTV.
Dasoz said the publishing house had not asked for any special protection from the police.
EU: Malatya another incident in series of anti-reform provocations
The European Union believes the killing of three people in Malatya is yet another provocation by those who want the reform process to grind to a halt.
While the EU Commission has condemned the killing very strongly, as did the Council of Europe and several MEPs, it thinks the motive behind the killings was to stop the reform process that has deepened since the AK Party came to power. A senior official from the EU Commission told Today's Zaman that those responsible were those who were against the reform process, human rights and the deepening and strengthening of Turkish democracy. Drawing attention to the murders of priest Andrea Santoro and Turkish journalist of Armenian origin Hrant Dink, the official said it was no coincidence that Christians were targeted in all three incidents.
Meanwhile, Joost Lagendijk of the European Parliament’s Turkey delegation, visiting the nearby southeastern Anatolian province of Diyarbakır, said the killings would send a negative message to Europe and that there was paranoia about missionaries in Turkey. “The public reaction to be shown against these murders is actually important,” Lagendijk said, while also calling on the Turkish government to deliver a call for tolerance. “Europe will perceive the killings to mean that those who attempt to seek converts to other faiths in Turkey will face a similar fate. It is very important for the government to appeal for the acceptance of different religions and ethnic backgrounds.”
In Seoul, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said murders in Malatya would not be helpful for Turkey’s EU process. “I call on the Turkish government to be diligent regarding democratic rules concerning living together. The Turkish government should not let these kinds of tragedies to change the political line that they have pursued,” Prodi said. The right-wing opposition parties in Italy, meanwhile, urged Prodi to inform the Italian Parliament concerning the incident in Malatya.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the attack “in the strongest terms,” and said he expected Turkish authorities would “do everything to clear up this crime completely and bring those responsible to justice.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat Party, which opposes Turkey’s bid to join the EU, said the attacks that included a German citizen showed the country’s shortcomings in protecting religious freedoms. “The Turkish state is still far from the freedom of religion that marks Europe,” the party’s general secretary, Ronald Pofalla, said in a statement. Turkey is under pressure to guarantee the protection and freedom of non-Muslim minorities as part of its efforts to join the EU, but a recent series of attacks has raised concerns that nationalism and anti-Christian hostility are on the rise.
In February 2006, Father Santoro, was shot dead as he prayed in his church in the northern city of Trabzon. A teenager was convicted of the murder and jailed for nearly 19 years. In January, journalist Hrant Dink, a prominent member of Turkey’s Armenian community, was gunned down in an Istanbul street. A 17-year-old, detained along with 11 other suspected ultra-nationalists, confessed to the killing.
SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI, Today’s Zaman with wires BRUSSELS, ANKARA
Turkish police probe Bible killings amid shock
By Daren Butler
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police have detained 10 people in connection with the killing of three people, including a German, at a Bible publishing house in the mainly Muslim country, authorities said on Thursday.
Malatya Governor Halil Ibrahim Dasoz told reporters the number of people in custody had risen to 10 and that all were from the same age group. He gave no further details.
The first five suspects, detained at the crime scene on Wednesday, were 19 and 20-year-old students who lived in the same hostel run by an Islamic foundation, newspapers said.
They said the youths carried notes in their pockets saying: "We are brothers. We are going to our death". They reportedly told police they carried out the killing for the "homeland".
Turkish Christians voiced distress over the killings, saying distrust of Christianity was being stirred up in Turkey where there are just 100,000 Christians in a population of 74 million.
"It was a disgusting, savage incident. I link it to comments made by party leaders... feeding people with comments like 'there are missionaries everywhere'," Pastor Behnan Konutgan said by telephone from Malatya where he was visiting relatives of the victims. He dined with the victims just two weeks ago.
One of the victims, Ugur Yuksel, was buried according to Muslim rites on Thursday in a village near Elazig in eastern Turkey. Newspapers described the other victim, Necati Aydin, as the head of the tiny Christian community in Malatya.
The killings came as political tensions rise between Turkey's powerful secular elite, including army generals and judges, and the religious-minded AK Party government over next month's presidential elections.
A wave of nationalism has swept the secular but predominantly Sunni Muslim country over the past year.
For many nationalists, missionaries are enemies of Turkey working to undermine its political and religious institutions. Hardline Islamists have also targeted Christian missionaries in Turkey, which is seeking European Union membership.
Joost Lagendijk of the European Parliament's Turkey delegation, visiting the nearby southeastern city of Diyarbakir, said the killings would send a negative message to Europe and that there was paranoia about missionaries in Turkey.
In Diyarbakir, there was growing concern in the 50-strong Protestant community, whose church was damaged in an arson attack three years ago.
"We have not been threatened as yet but as Christians in Turkey we are subject to pressure psychologically and from the media and after this incident we are more uneasy," said Ali Is, who works in the Diyarbakir church.
Christians at Bible publishers have their throats cut
Knife-wielding attackers slit the throats of three people at a Christian publishing house in conservative eastern Turkey yesterday.
One of the dead men was of German origin, the local governor said. Two other men were taken to hospital, one with knife wounds to his throat, back and stomach, the other with a head injury after jumping from a third-floor window to escape. The hospital in the town of Malatya said that both were in a critical condition.
Police have detained four men for the attack, which took place in the early afternoon. Television footage showed a policeman tackling one man while another man covered in blood was carried to an ambulance on a stretcher.
The killings came less than three months after the murder of a prominent Armenian journalist.
The Zirve publishing house, which the Turkish media says is owned by two South Africans, Gert Martinus de Lange and Stephen Smithdorf, had been the target of nationalist protests for allegedly distributing Bibles and proselytising.
Halil Ibrahim Dasoz, the Governor of Malatya, said the authorities were also investigating possible Islamist links, because the method of killing was reminiscent of attacks by the Turkish arm of the militant Islamist group Hezbollah.
Officials from Zirve say they had been the target of threats for some time and had been intending to ask for protection. They deny any missionary aims.
Martin de Langue, a former official, reportedly said two years ago that the public in Malatya was being provoked against Christians and foreigners. The small community of Turkish Protestant Christians, as opposed to Greek and Armenian minorities, comprises eager converts with a missionary bent. Although proselytising is not illegal in mainly Muslim Turkey it is regarded with hostility.
The attack came as two Turkish evangelical Christians in Istanbul attended a hearing of their trial under the notorious article 301 of the penal code, which the West condemns as a restriction on expression, after being accused by nationalists of insulting Turkey and Islam.
The European Commission has condemned the attack as “horrendous”. The EC has long called on Turkey to offer better protection and rights for its minorities.
The attack comes at a time of great tension in Turkey over secularist worries that the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former Islamist firebrand who now says he is a conservative democrat, will announce he is running for President in next month’s elections. This would cement the grip of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the top jobs in the land. Hundreds of thousands of secularists marched at the weekend to prevent what they believe would result in an assault on the secular nature of the state.
The AKP MP for Malatya said the attack in his constituency could have been an act of provocation aimed at creating greater turmoil.
“There are people within Turkey who want extraordinary tension to reign in the country,” the MP. Munir Erkal, said.
Threat to faith
There are 100,000 Christians in Turkey. Last year two employees of a Bible correspondence course were charged with insulting Turkishness". It was alleged they were bribing Muslims to convert, promoting promiscuity and denigrating the Turkish army. Odemis Protestant Church in Izmir was attacked with Molotov cocktails in November.
Source: Turkish News, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Asia News