Turkish men accused of ‘insulting Turkishness’ still on trial

By April 7, 2008

Turkey (MNN) —  In Turkey, the pressure is on for Christians, as can be seen in "this trial against these two men who, by witnessing for Christ, have now been accused of insulting Turkish-ness–as if the idea of a Turkish Christian is somehow an insult," said
Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs.

The trial has lasted for about seven months. Nettleton says, "It seems to be going on strictly for the purpose of pressuring Christians, trying to set a precedent that public witness for Jesus Christ is not appropriate in Turkey, according to the laws of that land."

Last year, the state prosecutor called for the case to be dropped because of a lack of
evidence and conflicting stories from the witnesses. However, the judge continued the trial saying that they'd find more witnesses. Today, the lead prosecutor is in jail, and many other holes have accumulated.    

Nettleton says the trial is just part of a pattern of the tightening down that can be seen in the country. The two men accused, Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan, were accused under Article 301 which prohibits freedom of speech. Turkey borders the European Union which is getting impatient with their failure to modify the Article, according to Compass Direct News. Also in their report, a Justice and Development Party Deputy, Nihat Ergun, said the revised version has been shelved indefinitely.

According to Nettleton, the current government has made concessions toward Muslims. For example, they've allowed Muslim women to wear head scarves in public universities. "They've made concessions toward Muslims. We've yet to see any concessions toward Christians or any sense that this is anything more than an Islamic nationalist
issue rather than a religious freedom issue, which is what the world, and particularly the European Union as they look at Turkey, is hoping to see–some steps in the right direction for people of all religions, not just Muslims, not just Christians."

Voice of the Martyrs will move ahead with their work with wisdom and caution. However, there will also be pressure from the inside and the outside. As Turkey is in
negotiations to become a member of the EU, the EU will apply external pressure, saying that the current human rights situation is not appropriate. From the inside, believers who stand strong will continue witnessing for Christ. 

The two men on trial have not lost their passion for evangelism. "One of them, during a delay
in the trial, was able to talk to some of the policemen and witness to them. So they have maintained good spirits. I think we can pray for them. We can pray for a just verdict in this trial," said Nettleton.

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