By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
MALATYA, TURKEY (ANS – October 4, 2016) – The five men who were convicted on September 28, 2016 of the murders of three Christians in Malatya, Turkey in 2007, were re-arrested on September 29, 2016 amid concerns that they might flee the country.
According to UK-based human rights group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the First High Criminal Court in Malatya on September 28, 2016, convicted and sentenced Emre Gunaydin, Cuma Ozdemir, Hamit Ceker, Salih Gurler and Abuzer Yildirim to three aggravated life sentences each for the premeditated murders of Turkish citizens Necati Aydin and Uğur Yüksel, and Tillman Geske, a German national.
The three Christians were killed at the offices of Zirve Publishing House on April 18, 2007. The five convicted men, who were apprehended at the scene of the crime, were released on bail in 2014, following controversial judicial amendments to terrorism laws that reduced the time suspects can be held without conviction to five years.
Following their conviction, they were briefly allowed home pending the outcome of an appeal, but were re-arrested on the evening of September 29, 2016 amid concerns, mainly from the Turkish Christian community, that they might abscond.
A total of 21 defendants stood trial in connection with the “Malatya Massacres” some of whom were military officers. Retired Colonel Mehmet Ulger was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison for “violation of confidentiality of communication and forgery of official documents”, while Major Haydar Yesil received 14 years and 10 months.
However, 14 other suspects remanded in connection with the case were acquitted of being members of a terrorist organization, including Retired General Hursit Tolon.
According to the Association of Protestant Churches, the presiding judge said the murders could not have been committed without the assistance of a criminal organization, but admitted that the court had failed to find this link.
Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s Chief Executive said in a statement sent to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), “CSW welcomes the conviction and arrests of the perpetrators of these appalling murders, following a lengthy trial that has taken a toll on the family and friends of the victims.
“Though the process has been inordinately long, the final outcome of this trial provides a welcome illustration that justice can prevail irrespective of the religious background of perpetrators and victims. We urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that from now onwards such cases continue be treated without prejudice in order to send a clear message that harassment and attacks against religious minorities will not be tolerated.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
Note to Editors:
1. An aggravated life sentence replaced the death penalty in Turkey and imposes tougher conditions on prisoners such as restrictions on leisure hours and limitations on contact with other prisoners, if deemed necessary.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Senior Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk.
Photo captions: 1) The three Christian martyrs (Malatya); from left, Turkish Christians Necati Aydin, Uğur Yüksel, and German Christian, Tilmann Geske. (World Watch Monitor). 2) A 2008 snapshot of the five convicted killers. (World Watch Monitor). 3) Opening of new church in Malatya on April 18, 2014. (Morning Star News) 4) Norma and Dan Wooding on a reporting assignment together in Hollywood, California.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. While still based in London, Dan Wooding was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest-circulation newspapers, and was an interviewer for BBC Radio One and also for LBC, the capital city’s main commercial talk station. Dan now has a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California.
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