By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)-- Turkish Christians fear those responsible for murdering three Christian publishers will not face justice and that authorities will be unable to tackle “structural injustice” towards the country's Christian minority, trial observers said.
Middle East Concern (MEC), an advocacy group closely monitoring the case, told BosNewsLife that two key witnesses failed to appear in court last week and that a new hearing is scheduled for August 21.
Five men have been charged with murdering Turkish Christians Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and German Tilmann Geske, at the Zirve Christian publishing house in the eastern town of Malatya in April 2007.
Investigators have said that the knife wielding attackers tortured and slit the throats of the three men.
Five men, aged 19 and 20, were detained soon after the murders, and their trial opened in November 2007.
MEC said it was concerned however about the “non-appearance of two witnesses despite court orders requiring their attendance and testimony” during the recent July 17 court hearing.
"One of them, a journalist, is being detained by the gendarmerie, who claimed that he couldn't attend as he was recovering from medical treatment," MEC said. “The gendarmerie had failed to bring him to the previous hearing on the pretext of having insufficient funds to cover the transportation costs, though he made similar journeys for his medical treatment.”
The other witness, the girl friend of one of the perpetrators, reportedly claimed she had not been able to prepare to give witness due to her university studies. The prosecution noted in court that universities are not in session and requested that the court find her guilty of not fulfilling her duty to appear, MEC said.
However, “This turn of events has further undermined the hopes of Turkish Christians that those behind the three murders will be identified and brought to justice,” MEC added. “The concern of Christians is not only for justice concerning the murders, but also for effective challenge to the wider structural injustice whereby Christians are regarded as potential enemies within the state,” the group stressed.
German widow Susanne Geske and Turkish widow Semse Aydin have accused various government ministries of having “failed to detect the plot and prevent the murders.” They have also said that authorities created a culture conducive to violence against Christians because religious minorities are presented as "an internal threat, a danger and an enemy,” MEC recalled
It said Turkish Christians asked for prayers that “ a positive outcome in this case and the compensation claim cases will in turn be instrumental in improving religious tolerance throughout Turkey,” and that those involved and observing the trial will understand the Christian faith.
The group also noted that Turkish Christians want, that the five alleged perpetrators will "feel a true and deep conviction about what they have done, and understand that their wrong-doing is not too great for Christ's forgiveness."