Six Turks and two expatriates have been charged by a Turkish court with opening a Christian training institute without legal permission. If convicted, they face a potential jail sentence of 18 months to three years.

The case was opened in response to a police raid last May in Istanbul's Avcilar district, where the eight Christians were arrested during a regular weeknight Bible study in their rented facilities registered as a place of worship. Those arrested and brought to trial included Australian Ian McLure and an American colleague.

According to the charges filed June 2 by State Prosecutor Hamit Atansay, the accused had violated articles 677 and 2911 of the civil administrative code, which require official permission to open any type of training institute.

As leader of the small Christian congregation, McLure was accused of renting a hall "to teach the other defendants the Christian religion and gather them on designated days of the week for religious worship."

All eight defendants were required by an official summons to attend the initial trial hearing held on September 9 at the Kucukcekmece Criminal Court of First Instance. After the first seven had corroborated their written testimony recorded during their May arrest, McLure was called before the judge.

"We were reading the Bible, praying and singing in our meetings," McLure testified, as recorded in the court minutes. "We were not involved in any other activities whatever. Nor did I open any kind of training institute."

When asked by the judge why he had failed to obtain permission for these religious meetings, as charged by the prosecution, McLure replied, "I gave official notice to the authorities, as required."

Under Turkish law, religious groups are required to inform ...

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