Turkish Court to Assess Injured Christian's Recovery

Friday, July 1, 2005

Official medical reports due next week on Yakup Cindilli.

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, July 1 (Compass) -- A criminal court in northwestern Turkey will assess new medical reports next week on the condition of Turkish Christian Yakup Cindilli, still recovering from severe injuries inflicted by ultra-nationalists accusing him of “missionary propaganda.”

A former Muslim who converted to Christianity, Cindilli was subjected to a severe beating in October 2003 which left him hospitalized in a coma for six weeks. When he regained consciousness and was sent home to recover, he could not walk unassisted and sometimes failed to recognize his closest relatives.

The Orhangazi Criminal Court has set July 8 for a trial hearing to evaluate Cindilli’s current physical, mental and psychological condition. The presiding judge had ordered the trial against his attackers postponed for 15 months, in order to determine to what extent the victim would actually recover from his injuries.

His three attackers were initially jailed on charges of battery and assault. They include the Orhangazi chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), released after a month, and two younger assailants released on bail after three months.

According to local newspapers, Cindilli’s assailants had accused the Turkish Christian of passing out New Testaments and doing “missionary propaganda” in his hometown. Neither accusation is a criminal offense under Turkish civil law.

At next week’s hearing, official medical examiners are to submit written forensic reports of their recent round of tests conducted on Cindilli for court consideration.

When the injured Christian last appeared in the courtroom on March 25, 2004, his right arm was still partially paralyzed and he walked slowly with a shuffling limp. On the emotional level, he appeared in relative control of himself, although sometimes mentally confused.

At that time, the young man’s religiously conservative Muslim family had flatly rejected all offers from his Christian friends to help provide legal counsel on his case or arrange for needed physical and psychological therapy.

But since January of this year, Cindilli’s family has allowed members of the Bursa Protestant Church to take their son for a doctor’s complete medical examination and regular physical therapy. Coupled with regular weightlifting and walking exercises, the therapy has improved the range of movement and coordination in his right arm and considerably lessened his limp.

“His right arm is still slightly affected,” Pastor Ismail Kulakcioglu told Compass today, “because he cannot completely lift it up. He is not entirely back to normal psychologically, but he can speak clearly, and give his own opinions.”

Now, one of Cindilli’s Christian friends observed, “Yakup’s health is restored so much that he can communicate quite well, and he can also do light physical work.”

“After more than 40 days in a coma,” the Bursa pastor commented, “it’s a miracle that Yakup is alive today.”

To date, Cindilli has had no legal representation in the court, apart from a public prosecutor assigned to handle the case. An older sister has spoken on his behalf before the judge during the previous five court hearings, the last two of which he was able to attend.

Defense lawyers for the MHP attackers put several local individuals on the witness stand, attempting to establish evidence that Cindilli had provoked the incident himself by distributing New Testaments and talking about his Christian faith in the community.

Cindilli’s family reportedly wants his court case to conclude at the July 8 hearing, without trying to obtain compensation from his attackers for his long-term disabilities. But that decision now remains with Cindilli, who has recovered sufficiently to speak for himself next week, when he appears before the court.

“We pray for justice for him,” the pastor said, “but we cannot make any decisions for him on legal matters, whether to open a case for compensation against his attackers. He must decide for himself.”

Now 34, Cindilli has been able to attend worship and prayer services at the Bursa Protestant Church occasionally over the past six months. On two occasions, the congregation met together with him for extended prayer for his complete healing and return to a normal life in society.

Although he has done some janitorial work for the church in recent months, he is still not able to take a full-time job or live on his own, the pastor said.

Despite pressures from his family to renounce his faith, “Yakup is very committed to stay faithful to Jesus, in spite of what happened,” a member of the Bursa church noted.