Ankara (AsiaNews/Agencies) A Turkish court has charged a new suspect over the 2007 murders of three Christians in Malatya, the country's east. Seven young men are already on trial over the killing of German missionary Tilmann Geske and Turkish converts Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel in the offices of publishing house Zerve. The three men were found with their throats slit.
The new suspect, Varol Bulent Aral, is charged with "being the leader of a terrorist organisation" and "the murder of more than one person as part of the organisation's activities”.
Charges that Aral masterminded and instigated the murder come from the group already in prison. Five of the men went to the publishing house on the pretext about wanting to discuss Christianity and then tied the missionaries, questioned them about missionary activities, tortured them and slit their throats. The publishing house had already received threats and its employees had sought police protection.
In the trial that began in November 2007, the prosecutor has charged that the defendants set up an "armed terrorist organisation to forcefully impose their ideological convictions on others”. He asked life in prison for 5 of them. Another two suspects risk one year in prison for having aided the murderers.
At the time, many Turkish intellectuals blamed ultranationalist press and politicians for the incident for having continuously underlined a “Christian danger”, which – in their opinion – is the result of numerous conversions from Islam. In reality, according to the Minister for Home Affairs, between 199 and 2001, 344 Muslims out of a total population of 70 million were baptised.