03/18/2011, 00.00
TURKEY
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Mastermind behind the slaughter of Christians in Malatya arrested

Dozens of people are arrested in a large-scale operation carried out in nine provinces. They are suspected of links with Ergenekon, a clandestine organisation trying to destabilise the country. Colonel Mehmet Ülger, who was the Malatya Provincial Gendarmerie Brigade commander in 2007, is among the arrested.

Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Dozens of people have been detained in Turkey in connection with the Ergenekon investigation, which has now been linked to the murder of three Protestant missionaries in Malatya in 2007 (see “A new suspect in the murder of 3 Christians in Malatya,” in AsiaNews, 5 February 2009).

Simultaneous operations were conducted in nine provinces yesterday at the order of Zekeriya Öz, the chief prosecutor overseeing the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network charged with plotting to topple the government by creating large-scale chaos in the country.

Reports said 20 individuals were detained yesterday, including retired Colonel Mehmet Ülger, who was serving as Malatya Provincial Gendarmerie Brigade commander in 2007, Ruhi Abat, an instructor in İnönü University's theology department, and a noncommissioned officer from the Mersin Provincial Gendarmerie Command.

The detainees are suspected of having masterminded and instigated murders as part of Ergenekon's plan to lay the groundwork for a military coup.

The list of murders includes the brutal execution-style assassination of three Protestant missionaries working at the Zirve Publishing House, which printed Christian material.

A connection between the triple murder and military circles was first made in 2008 in relation to Mehmet Ülger.

The three Christians, two Turks, Necati Aydın and Uğur Yüksel, and a German, Tilmann Ekkehart Geske, were found dead in the southeastern Anatolian city of Malatya. They were tied to chairs, stabbed, tortured; their throats slit.

Five men were subsequently arrested for the murders. Altogether, nine people are thought to have been involved in the crime.

In 2010, a police report strengthened the connection between Ergenekon and Malatya. It mentioned a Cage Action Plan, within the organisation, to strike at Christians. Cage plan documents specifically referred to the killings of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink and Catholic priest Father Andrea Santoro in Trabzon.

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