Young Muslims in Turkey Murder Three Christians
In a gruesome assault against Turkey's tiny Christian community, five young Muslim Turks entered a Christian publishing office in the southeastern province of Malatya Wednesday and slit the throats of the three Protestant Christians present.
Two of the victims, Necati Aydin, 36, and Ugur Yuksel, 32, were Turkish converts from Islam. The third man, Tilmann Geske, 46, was a German citizen.
The Turkish press reported Thursday that four of the five young men arrested for the murders, all 19 to 20 years of age, admitted during initial interrogations that they were motivated by both "nationalist and religious feelings."
"We did this for our country," an identical note in the pockets of all five young men read, Channel D television station reported. "They are attacking our religion."
According to the newspaper Hurriyet, one of the suspects declared during police questioning, "We didn't do this for ourselves. We did it for our religion. May this be a lesson to the enemies of religion."
In a demonstration against the Zirve Publishing office in Malatya two years ago, local protestors had claimed its publishing and distribution activities constituted "proselytism" among Muslims and should be closed down. Turkish law, however, guarantees the right to engage in religious evangelism if it does not contain proven political motives.
The three Christians were found tied hand and foot to chairs at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the liaison office of Zirve Publishing in Malatya's Niyazi Misr-i district. Their throats had been cut and their bodies marred by multiple stab wounds.
Both Aydin and Geske were already dead when local police discovered their bodies. Police had received a call from a nearby office in the building about a "disturbance" happening in the Christian publishing house's third-floor office.
Although Yuksel was still breathing and rushed to a nearby hospital for massive blood transfusions, he expired soon afterwards.
When police stormed the building, one of the killers threw himself from the third story to the street, suffering a broken leg and severe head injuries. The other four suspects were apprehended as they tried to flee the building, still holding their bloodied knives.
During interrogation, the four confessed killers claimed the attack had been planned by the fifth suspect, now hospitalized in serious condition. But Thursday Malatya Gov. Halil Ibrahim Dasoz announced that five additional suspects had been arrested in the police investigation.
Turkish government leaders were quick to denounce the murders and promise a full investigation. The police, meanwhile, fielded conjecture that the suspects were linked to the Turkish Hizbollah, a Kurdish Islamic movement calling for a Muslim state in southeastern Turkey.
According to Zirve Publishing's general manager, Hamza Ozant, the company's Malatya staff had received death threats in recent months. All three of the men worked in the office and attended the local 30-member Kurtulus Protestant Church pastored by Aydin.
Aydin is survived by his wife, Semse, and a son and daughter, both preschool age. Geske with his wife Susanne had two sons and a daughter, ages 8 to 13 years. Yuksel was engaged to be married within a few months.
Forensic authorities surrendered Yuksel's body last night to his family, who buried him Thursday morning in his home village in Elazig. Aydin's funeral has been set for Saturday afternoon (April 21), at the Anglican Church in Izmir, his home city in western Turkey. It is not yet known whether Geske's widow will decide to inter his body in Malatya or Germany.