Turkey (MNN) — Seven people appeared in court Monday in Malatya to answer charges that they killed one German and two Turkish Christians. The hearing was being held under tight security in the south-eastern town.
Voice of the Martyrs' Todd Nettleton: "We have not heard reports of what happened in that. There were some media reports that the defendant's lawyers would ask for a delay to have more time to prepare a defense. What we do know is it seems like the prosecutors are more interested in the three who were killed than they are in the seven who are on trial."
The accused are believed to have been motivated by nationalist and religious reasons. Last April, the victims, Necati Aydin, 35, Ugur Yuksel, 32, and German national Tilmann Geske, 46, were tied to chairs in the offices of a small Christian publishing house they ran, tortured and then murdered.
While the state prosecutor's office has demanded life sentences for the five main suspects, Nettleton claims the prosecution has gathered detailed information about the three Christians, their activities, their outreach, all the while, losing evidence against the accused.
The end result could have a "chilling effect" on ministry. While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in "buildings created for this purpose," and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions.
In other cases, those who dare to profess Christ face harassment, threats and prison. This case speaks volumes to all who are watching and praying. Nettleton says, "If we put ourselves in their shoes, and see this trial going on, and you know that three Christians were killed, and you see what appears to be a cover up as part of this trial, obviously that's a concern. It leads to a feeling of not being protected by the Turkish government."