Police Arrest Turkish Christian in Gaziantep

Friday, April 13, 2001

by Barbara G. Baker
April 13, 2001

ISTANBUL, (Compass) -- Four security police from Gaziantep's anti-terrorism division raided a Turkish Christian's home on the night of April 11, placing him under arrest for five days pending investigation of accusations against him.

Yashar Tugral, 30, was taken to security police headquarters after officers searched his home and questioned his wife and six other believers present at the time of the arrest.

Police told Tugral that an official complaint had been filed against him, accusing him of using money to attract converts to Christianity.

A witness to the evening raid stated that none of the believers present were "intimidated by the arrogant and threatening manner of the police chief, nor by the submachine gun toted by his assistant." Tugral's wife reportedly cautioned the police chief, "I'm entrusting him to you. If anything happens to him, I'll hold you responsible."

One of Tugral's friends was allowed to take him food and visit him yesterday, while he was under detention at police headquarters. "He was in good spirits, and they haven't mistreated him physically," the friend told Compass today. "But they reacted very angrily when I tried to give him a New Testament to have with him to read."

Tugral told his friend that the morning after his arrest, he had been taken before the state prosecutor, who ordered him held for five days while the accusations against him were investigated. The detained Christian was transferred this afternoon to the local Gaziantep Prison, where he will be held until Monday, April 16.

Tugral is active in a Protestant Christian congregation in Gaziantep closed down just two weeks ago by order of the local security police. The authorities declared that the location where the 30-member church has met for the past 18 months could not be designated as a legal place of public worship due to zoning and other restrictions.

The jailed Christian was to have led Easter worship celebrations in a temporary Gaziantep location this weekend. When he was arrested, his church considered postponing the program. "Who feels like celebrating Easter with one of our brothers behind bars?" one fellow Christian commented. "Yet what better time than Holy Week for our brother to share in the sufferings of our Lord!"

Tugral is an employee of Kaya Publishing Company, registered in Turkey as an official book distribution company since 1996. He was baptized as a Christian in May 1998 and formally changed the religious designation on his national identity card from Muslim to Christian last year. Tugral is married with two daughters.

Copyright © 2001 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.