After four years, some charges dropped for Turkish Christians; others stick

By October 20, 2010

Turkey (MNN) — Right on the heels of the final arrest of a man convicted with the brutal murders of three Christians in Turkey three years ago, two Turkish believers were acquitted of crimes they did not commit. Upon first glance, it seems as though justice is on the side of Christians in Turkey, but the issue provokes deeper examination.

According to Compass Direct News, two Turkish believers, Turan Topal, 50, and Hakan Tastan, 41, were charged four years ago with various crimes and have been fighting in court ever since.

The two men were volunteering with The Bible Research Center when they were charged with "insulting Turkishness, the military, and Islam" by spreading Christianity. The men were finally acquitted of these charges yesterday, but another sentence is still hovering over their heads.

In their recent hearing, the two men were still found guilty of "collecting information on citizens without permission," which goes against Article 135. The men were sentenced to seven months in prison with a bail set at 4,500 lira, or $3,170 USD.

While the men were volunteering with The Bible Research Center–now The Association for Propagating Knowledge of the Bible, they contacted people who had given out their information on the association's Web site and had indicated that they were interested in Christianity. Topal and Tastan did not do the actual collecting of the information, according to Tastan.

"We are not responsible for the information that was collected. So why are they fining us for this? So we continue our legal adventure," Tastan told Compass Direct.

After four years, however, this"‘legal adventure" will not end quickly. Topal's and Tastan's lawyer Haydar Polat said the appeal process regarding the most recent sentence for the men will take over a year.

A variety of shady circumstances have littered the case, include three faulty witnesses–two of which admitted they didn't know Topal or Tastan, and the other who did not appear in court. The men were providing information about Christianity, but "in Turkey, constitutionally speaking, it is not a crime to be a Christian or to disseminate the Christian faith," said Polat. "However, in reality there have been problems."

These two men are grateful for being granted acquittal for at least some of the charges. Pray that the court would be just in the appeals process and that the men would be able to freely share their faith again without fear of arrest. Pray that this case would not in any way become the standard for the way Christians are treated in the Turkish court system. Pray that believers would continue to spread the Gospel unhindered.

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