Turkey: Trial resumes of Bible publishing workers' killers

The trial of five men accused of murdering three Christians in south east Turkey resumed on Monday, just days before the country's believers mark one year since the horrific murders.

Two Turkish Christians from a Muslim-background, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and German citizen, Tilman Geske, were tortured to death on 18 April 2007 in the office of a Christian publishing company in the city of Malatya.

During the 12-hour hearing on Monday, the lawyers acting for the families of the victims were informed that their request to have the bench of three judges replaced was rejected by a higher court. The lawyers had previously lodged the request declaring that the 'impartiality and independence' of the court was in jeopardy. The court also heard from three of the defendants.

One of the lawyers for the victims' families, Tahir Elci, told Turkish news agency Bianet that although these men had confessed, no one was able to find those who orchestrated the murders. Mr Elci believes that opportunities for a deeper inquiry have been blocked. This view is shared by other lawyers and the Alliance of Turkish Protestant Churches.

The trial will resume on 12 May.

CSW's National Director, Stuart Windsor said: "It is concerning that the court is still reluctant to pursue the darker connections behind those standing trial.

"During the first part of 2008, reports of attacks on church properties and Christian clergymen in Turkey have increased significantly.

"If the court does not seek to address the larger problem, it will send out a negative and dangerous message to nationalists who have targeted Christians that their actions will go unpunished."

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