By Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent
ISTANBUL/AMSTERDAM (BosNewsLife) -- There was concern Wednesday, July 16, that Turkish authorities were involved in last year's murder of three evangelical Christians at a Christian publishing house in the city of Malatya.
Netherlands-based Open Doors, a group investigating the plight of reportedly persecuted Christians, said it has learned that a key witness, Metin Dogan, has told a court that at least four influential politicians and officials were involved in killing German Tilman Ekkehart Geske and Turks Necati Aydin, and Ugur Yuksel.
The three Christian workers were found in April last year, tied up and their throats slit.
Dogan said he was approached by ultranationalist movement Ulku Ocaklari to carry out the murders with a knife. “If it’s done with a gun, it cannot be arranged with the police,” he was reportedly told. The movements chairman, Burhan Coskun, allegedly promised Dogan to provide two assistents who he was to kill after murdering the Christians.
He was also approached by three other men, identified as Mehmet Ekici, an influential local politician of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Namik Hakan Durhan, a former MHP member and parliamentarian, and Hikmet Celik, a retired major general.
Observers of the trial in Malatya said it was the first time that names have been mentioned of people who allegedly ordered the murders. Dogan was never able to murder the Christians himself as he was reportedly already detained during preparations for his involvement in killing the alleged murderer of his brother. He currently serves a 16 year prison term.
Prosecutors have suggested that the five men who are currently facing trial were not the only people involved in murdering the Christians, saying there was a high-level “complot” against the Christian publishing house. Two of the suspects have denied they knew Dogan and a court has ordered an investigation into the autenticity of his declaration.
Open Doors spokesman Jenö Sebök told BosNewsLife in a statement said however he is "concerned" that Turkish politicians were possibly involved in the murders. "If that's the case it will will make the position of minority Christians more difficult," he added.
The trial has been held amid growing tensions between, often shouting, prosecutors and lawyers of the defendants. Lawyers even accused the Christian Zirve Publishing Co. was secretly involved in the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been blamed by Turkey for acts of terrorism.
“Most likely lawyers are trying to influence public opinion by trying to make Christians look bad,” Open Doors commented. The European Union has complained that Turkey, an EU applicant, fails to fully protect the religious freedoms of its tiny Christian minority, which numbers some 100,000 in a predominantly Muslim population of nearly 75 million people, according to estimates.
There have been several attacks against churches and killings of Christians in recent years.
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