Turkish Extremists Jailed For Torture, Murder, But Christians Still Don't Feel Safe

Necati Aydin, aged 36, Tilmann Geske, 46, a German citizen, and Ugur Yuksel, 32. Aydin and Yuksel were Turkish converts from IslamCompass Direct News

Christians in Turkey "still don't feel safe" after the conviction of five men for the murder of three Christians in 2007, according to one of their colleagues.

Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Uğur Yüksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske were tortured and murdered by extremists at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya, eastern Turkey.A fortnight ago the five perpetrators were handed three consecutive life sentences, two military personnel were given sentences 13 and 14 years and 16 other defendants were acquitted.

SAT-7 TÜRK Broadcasting Manager Gökhan Talas and his wife narrowly escaped being caught up in the attack themselves when they left the office to get some breakfast.

Talas said: "I was the last man to talk to Ugur," Gökhan explained. "He called me and told me to go to a hotel for a meeting I knew had not been arranged. I knew something was seriously wrong and called the police."

After the judgment last week, Rev Ihsan Ozbek, chair of Turkey's Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, said the verdict "would bring some peace of mind [for] the relatives and friends of the martyrs".

But he voiced deep frustration at the nine-year delay in sentencing and the court's failure to expose the criminal network that the judge accepted must have planned the attack.

Talas said: "The decision to sentence them came after nine and a half years. All the murderers' connections are lost; now no one can trace the network behind them."

He added: "The murderers are in jail but the people behind this are still free. We feel the big picture is being hidden from us. Turkey's Christians don't feel safe because of this."

The five accused, who had been out on bail, were not immediately arrested pending the hearing of their appeals, until an outcry and fears that they might flee Turkey resulted in their re-arrest.

Although the sentencing of the five men will now be considered by the Court of Appeals, Gökhan said, "I don't think the case will be overturned. I believe they will spend their lives in jail."

Nevertheless, he said the case is not completely isolated: "Christians in Turkey feel there is a potential risk all the time."