Three Christians working in Turkey were martyred in 2007 on the orders of members of the military who wanted to disrupt society with violence to unseat the sitting government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a new report that cites a 761-page indictment of 19 people for the crimes.
The deaths of Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel, who were attacked by several Muslims who had asked to attend a Bible study at a publishing house where the three victims worked, have become known as the Malatya Massacre.
The vicious attacks reverberated around the globe when, as WND previously reported, the widow of one of the slain Christians created a tidal wave of reaction in Turkey by expressing forgiveness for the attackers.
When the publishing house attack became known, the response of Geske’s widow, Susanne, hit the front pages of the nation’s largest newspapers.
“Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, echoing the words of Christ on the cross in Luke 23.34. She explained she had no idea what to say until someone told her it would be an opportunity for a Christian testimony.
She agreed, and her subsequent statements were reported in detail across front pages of newspapers nationwide.
Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the population in Turkey, have been subjected to other attacks in recent years, too. In 2006, a Turkish teen shot to death a Roman Catholic priest who was praying in his church. Two other priests were attacked the same year. Early in 2007 came the death of Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.
There have been several attempts at bringing all those responsible for the 2007 murders to justice, unsuccessful to date.
Open Doors News by Compass Direct now is reporting on the newest effort, in which prosecutors have named 19 suspects. The case is before the Third Criminal Court in Malatya this month.
The allegations suggest members of the military spied on the Christians, incited violence and orchestrated their murders in order to create chaos for the ruling government at the time.
“This indictment provides the first solid evidence that our military authorities officially assigned the named suspects to monitor and attack the Christians in Malatya,” Umut Sahin, of the legal committee of the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches, told Open Doors News.
Prosecutors allege the five young men who stabbed, tortured and slit the throats of the three victims at the Zirve Christian Publishing House were acting at the instigation of Ret. Gen. Hursit Tolon.
He sent a medical excuse to the court instead of appearing for the hearings that already have begun.
Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel, (L to R) who were martyred by Muslims in Turkey
The report said Tolon is suspected of plotting to topple the ruling Justice and Peace Party of Erdogan. The indictment alleges the deaths were part of the “Cage Action Plan” that was intended “to undermine the … government.”
The premise challenges earlier statements, including one from defendant Emre Gunaydin, who said, “We went on an expedition on behalf of Islam on our own to accomplish this event.”
Open Doors News also reported authorities have replaced two prosecutors and two of the three judges in the long-running case, citing a routine reassignment because of reforms affecting the criminal courts.
Open Doors News reports the indictment alleges: “Under the local commander’s direction, the Malatya gendarmerie had been monitoring the handful of Christians in Malatya 24 hours a day, tapping their telephones and paying informers some 60 percent of their intelligence budget to collect data on their activities, sometimes in cooperation with police and secret intelligence officials. And after the attack, the gendarmerie officers tapped the telephones of the victims’ families, lawyers and judges in the case, and then gave false documents and testimony to manipulate the trial, trying to portray the three murdered Christians as criminals linked with illegal groups like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the soldiers testified.”
The hearings are scheduled to resume on Nov. 12,
The story of the fate of the three faithful has been captured by Texas-born filmmaker Nolan Dean, whose film “Malatya” reveals what happened.
Some analysts believe Christian persecution is on the rise in Turkey.
A report on Eurasianet.org shortly after the killings said the gang of five admitted that they “committed the crime in defense of Islam.”
A Turkey area specialist who asked not to be identified for security reasons said the murders are part of a general trend towards more opposition to Christianity.
“From my understanding, the last seven years or so have been a period of higher than normal persecution,” the analyst observed.