The masterminds behind the martyrdom of three Christians at a Bible publishing house in Turkey earlier this year have been identified in a letter that is being forwarded to prosecutors there, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs, the worldwide ministry to persecuted Christians.
About 10 suspects in the actual executions of Tilman Geske of Germany and Turkish nationals Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel already are in custody, authorities have confirmed.
Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel, (L to R) who were martyred by Muslims in Turkey
But Voice of the Martyrs is confirming that the letter provides the names of three Malatya, Turkey, officials – including an “Islamic faculty member,” and “a colonel” in the military – as the masterminds who planned the attack for several months.
VOM said the Turkish media recently discovered an e-mail that was sent to Turkish Christian leaders weeks after the attack revealing the names of the organizers, a document that was submitted to the prosecutor’s office by the Christian leaders.
“According to Compass Direct News, ‘The Firat News Agency reported on Sept. 18 that an anonymous e-mail message signed ‘A.A.’ had named a colonel in the Malatya gendarmerie along with an Islamic faculty member, as the instigators of the plot to kill three Christians,” VOM said.
“The ANF article identified the officer … but gave only the initials of several others. A Sept. 19 article in Birgun newspaper, however, listed the name of the faculty member … It also identified a member of parliament from Malatya, one military commander and another suspect, claiming that the murder conspiracy had been planned for four or five months in advance,” VOM said.
The e-mail, reports said, noted the writer decided to distribute the information “as my duty as a citizen.”
Authorities report that five suspects, including a man who jumped out of a third floor window, were arrested at the scene of the crime at Zirve publishing house, which is owned by Turkey’s Protestant community.
The arrests of five more men – like the others ages 19 and 20 – were announced later by Malatya Gov. Halil Ibrahim Dasoz, but no details were provided.
Reports said the suspects, who shared living space at a dorm run by a religious foundation, were carrying copies of a letter that said: “We did it for our country. They are trying to take our country away, take our religion away.”
Christians make up less than 1 percent of the population in Turkey, and have been subjected to a list of attacks in recent years. In 2006, a Turkish teen shot to death a Roman Catholic priest as he prayed in his church. Two other priests were attacked the same year. Early in 2007 came the death of Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.
Turkish television has suggested police were investigating the possible involvement of Turkish Hezbollah, a Kurdish Islamic group that seeks a Muslim state.
The three victims were found with their hands and legs bound and their throats slit at the publishing house. Authorities said police were dispatched after getting calls about a fight.
When the attack became known, Geske’s widow, Susanne, responded in a way that hit the front pages of the nation’s largest newspapers.
“Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23.34), according to a letter Christians in Turkey have written to the worldwide church, a letter released through Voice of the Martyrs.
“In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne [Geske] has changed lives,” the letter said. “One columnist wrote of her comment, ‘She said in one sentence what 1,000 missionaries in 1,000 years could never do.'”
The letter titled “A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna” was received by VOM shortly after the slayings, and the ministry organization that works with the Persecuted Church worldwide is publicizing it.
“The Voice of the Martyrs has already been actively involved in assisting the families of these courageous Christians. We encourage you to pray for them as they grieve, and to pray that this will be a significant turning point for the gospel in Turkey,” the organization said.
VOM noted that 2,000 years earlier, this location of Christians was addressed in Rev. 2:8-11: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write… ‘Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.'”
The letter described the work Geske, 46, was doing on a new Turkish Study Bible. That morning, he went to the offices of Zirve publishing, which produces and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and other parts of eastern Turkey, for a Bible study. Pastor Necati Aydin, the father of two, also left for the same office, as did Ugur Yuksel.
“None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ,” the letter said.
Also heading to the Bible study were five men thought to be “seekers” who had been guests of Pastor Necati at an invitation-only evangelistic service earlier.
“No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their story,” the letter said.
“The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible study, around 10 o’clock,” the letter said. “Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman’s hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours.”
When officers entered, they found, “Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur’s throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive,” the letter said.
The letter said persecution of Christians – bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse as well as media propaganda — moved into the intense range following a decision in 2001 by the National Security Council of Turkey to consider Christians a threat to national security on the same level as al-Qaida.
Voice of the Martyrs
is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.