Turkish Court Releases Alleged Attacker

Friday, November 21, 2003

Hospitalized Christian Remains in Coma
by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, November 21 (Compass) -- Nearly a month after three suspects were jailed for severely injuring a Turkish Christian distributing so-called “missionary propaganda,” a court in northwest Turkey has ordered one of the alleged attackers released.

Metin Yildiran, president of the local chapter of the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), was released by a panel of judges at the Orhangazi Criminal Court of First Instance on November 18.

According to a report appearing in the local Bursa Hakimiyet newspaper the following day, a thousand “ultranationalist” youths crowded around the Orhangazi courthouse during the hearing, breaking out into applause after Yildiran’s release was announced.

In its November 19 coverage of the hearing, Olay newspaper described the decision to release Yildiran as “a result of social pressure” brought to bear on the court.

But Yildiran’s co-suspects, Ibrahim Sekman and Huseyin Bektas, were remanded to Gemlik Prison until the next hearing on the case, set for December 17. According to several press reports, the court refused to release the other two suspects until it received an official report on the injured Christian’s medical condition.

Yakup Cindilli, 32, was hospitalized after the October 23 attack, in which he sustained heavy blows on his head and face. He went into a coma during his second day at the Bursa State Hospital, where attending doctors describe his current condition in the intensive care unit as “stabilized” but still unconscious.

Together with his companion identified as Tufan Orhan, Cindilli had reported the beatings to the police, naming Sekman and Bektas as their attackers.

According to an October 25 article in Kent newspaper, Yildiran turned himself into the state prosecutor the day after Sekman and Bektas were arrested. In his official statement, Yildiran reportedly claimed that because he was also present during the incident, it was impossible to ignore his conscience when he learned his two friends had been arrested.

After the hearing, Necati Ozensoy, identified by the newspaper as MHP’s provincial chairman, declared that the other two suspects were innocent. Ozensoy said it was beyond understanding why the medical report confirming that Cindilli’s life was “not in danger” had been delayed, preventing the court from releasing the other two “innocent youths.”

The Turkish press has not reported that Cindilli was hospitalized from his injuries, nor that he has remained in a coma for the past month.

From a Muslim family, Cindilli had reportedly become a Christian during the past two years through his interactions with “Alo Dua,” a prayer hotline ministry staffed by local Turkish Christians.

Just five days before the Orhangazi hearing, Alo Dua’s Ankara office received an anonymous telephone call from a man who said he was calling from Orhangazi. “I want to warn you,” the caller said, “because the ones who are guilty in this case are free, and it’s the innocent ones who are in jail.”

“Be careful on the day of Yakup’s hearing,” the man continued, threatening a “very big protest” at the court.

Today a doctor attending Cindilli said that there was “tiny, daily improvement” in his medical condition, mentioning that despite his unconscious state, he had uttered a word or two for the first time last week.

According to a November 19 report in the Kent Haber newspaper, the suspects told the court that they began arguing with Cindilli and Orhan when they tried to give them copies of the New Testament. At this point, they claimed, “Cindilli’s foot slipped and he fell, hitting his head on the pavement.”

Today the pastor of the Bursa Protestant Church where Cindilli sometimes attended worship called for a special day of prayer and fasting on December 17, urging fellow Turkish Christians to pray for Cindilli’s complete recovery and for a just court ruling on his case.