Today 28th September the First Criminal Court of Malatya issued a verdict in the Malatya Zirve murder trial related to the killing of three Christians in Malatya in 2007.
The five perpetrators – caught red-handed at the crime scene – were handed three consecutive life sentences, two military personnel were given sentences of 13 years 9 months and 14 years 10 months and 22 days, and sixteen other defendants were acquitted.
Despite being handed life sentences, the perpetrators were not arrested and detained, to the consternation of the families and friends of the victims. The legal limit for detention pending the trial is five years. The perpetrators have already served this time, and since the case now moves to the Court of Appeals they cannot be detained at the moment.
Pastor Ihsan Ozbek, chairman of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey (TeK), has issued a press release regarding the verdict. An English version of the text is copied below.
PRESS STATEMENT BY REV. IHSAN OZBEK:
On April 18th 2007 Emre Günaydın, Cuma Özdemir, Salih Gürler, Abuzer Yıldırım and Hamit Çeker severely tortured and brutally killed Ugur Yuksel, Necati Aydin and Tilman Geske from the Zirve publishing house in Malatya by cutting their throats.
They were caught red-handed, and the indictment was prepared within 6 months, but failed to progress throughout the next 9 years. Today the judge explained the verdict saying that the murders could not have taken place without connections to a [criminal] organization, but it was important for the court to admit that they had not exposed this connection. “Yes, there is an organization, but we did not find the link,” said the court.
Of course, for the relatives and friends of the martyrs who filled the courtroom with the expectation that the perpetrators would be put under arrest, the verdict would bring some peace of mind. It was important for justice to be seen to be done, albeit late, through the detention of the murderers who had been electronically tagged and not detained for years.
The last words of Emre Gunaydin in court tell us a great deal: “I am thankful that I did not shame my country or cause any embarrassment.”
We as the Protestant community living in Turkey struggled hard to get the killers punished and to uncover the motivation behind the perpetrators. It was clear anyway that the suspects caught red-handed would be punished. We the Protestant community tried hard to uncover the darkness behind the murders.
However, today according to the decision of the First Malatya Criminal Court the perpetrators were not arrested despite being handed life sentences.
Of course the legal process will continue as the case proceeds to the regional administrative court, and then will go to the Supreme Court. This process can take years, and the killers of our brothers brutally murdered can move around freely for years to come. The repeated postponement of the punishment they deserve severely wounds confidence in justice.
As the Protestant community we want the procedure for the case to be performed quickly in order that the trial will be brought to a just conclusion with the punishment of the perpetrators. We hope that the dark powers – described by the judge in the comment “Yes, there is an organization, but we did not find the link” – will be brought to light soon.
Association of Protestant Churches
MAY BE CIRCULATED TO GENERAL MAILING LISTS AND OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS, AND QUOTED FROM FREELY IN REPORTS CITING “MIDDLE EAST CONCERN” AS THE SOURCE OF THE INFORMATION.
Christians in Turkey request prayer that:
a. the motivation and the masterminds behind these murders will be revealed
b. the review process of the verdict will proceed smoothly, and the guilty verdict will be upheld