Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel, (L to R) who were martyred by Muslims in Turkey
All five suspects who are on trial in Turkey for the deaths of three Christian martyrs allegedly slain in a vicious attack by Muslims who had agreed to meet them at a Bible publishing house have denied responsibility, instead pointing fingers at each other.
Compass Direct, which has been documenting the case, said court testimonies by the five suspects were completed this week during a sixth hearing before Malatya’s 3rd Criminal Court.
“All have insisted that they had not planned to murder anyone and that no individuals or group instigated their raid on the Zirve Publishing Co. office in Malatya on April 18, 2007,” the report said.
As WND has reported, Tilman Geske of Germany and Turkish nationals Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel died in the attack. Authorities have said they reportedly met several Muslims for a Bible study, then were tied up, stabbed and tortured for several hours before their throats were slit.
Now Compass Direct reports that the alleged ringleader, Emre Gunaydin, has stated in a letter to the court that, “Our purpose was just to gather information and give it to the press.”
His letter said the knives the suspects carried with them were “only to protect ourselves.”
“If we had wanted to kill them, we would have brought a real gun along with us,” his letter said. “I didn’t kill anyone. I just hit them. And I didn’t order anyone to kill them.”
However, Compass has documented that the other four suspects, Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim and Salih Gurler, have reported Gunaydin planned the attack, and they went along unaware of his intentions of murder.
Gunaydin, in his turn to testify, fingered Gurler, alleging he watched him stab Yuksel.
“I remember very clearly Salih slanting his knife, stabbing and twisting it into Ugur’s back,” Gunaydin alleged.
Compass reports Gunaydin also repeated previous explanations that the attack erupted when Aydin “slandered” Islam by stating that Jesus is God. But the report says he now is denying his original statement to police that after the Malatya raid he planned to kill Aydin’s brother-in-law, a Christian pastor.
He was taken into custody after he fell from a third-floor balcony to the street trying to escape the scene of the massacre and he said the “trauma” he suffered made his originally statements inaccurate. Compass also reported he appeared uncertain about information in his new statement.
“I don’t remember,” he said.
Judge Eray Gurtekin said because of the conflict among the testimonies all five suspects will be cross-examined together at a hearing scheduled in June.
Also to be handled is new evidence from prison inmate Metin Dogan, who was jailed for killing a man. Dogan recently wrote prosecutors that he had been offered $300,000 in 2005 to kill anyone he found at the Malatya publishing company office.
He wrote that an official with the ultranationalist Ulku Ocaklari youth group, linked with the Nationalist Movement Party, called him for a meeting, and he was told, “Whoever you find at the Zirve Publishing office, you will kill,” Compass Direct reported.
However, he reported he then went to prison and Gunaydin “was given this job.”
Officials with that organization, however, denied the claim.
The defendants have testified they took knives and rope with them to “frighten” the Christians.
Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the population in Turkey, have been subjected to numerous 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 last year came the death of Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.
When the publishing house 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, 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.’”
Titled “A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna,” it was received by VOM shortly after the slayings, and the ministry organization that works with the Persecuted Church worldwide publicized it.
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 told of a Bible study that was planned that morning involving the three Christians and apparently five Muslims who had been invited.
“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.”