The influential American human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) with website www.persecution.org told BosNewsLife that the circumstances surrounding the deaths of German Tilman Ekkehart Geske, 45, and Turkish Christians Necati Aydin, 35, and Ugur Yuksel ,32, at the Christian Zirve publishing house were even worse than thought.
ICC, based in Washington DC, said the troubles began on Easter Sunday when five of the alleged killers had been to a service that Pastor Necati arranged in the eastern town of Malatya, the capital of Malatya province.
The men were reportedly known to local believers as searching for the faith in Christ. The suspects, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of “faithful believers” in Islam, ICC added.
Tarikat membership is "like a fraternity membership" and means that "no one can get into public office without membership" of such a group, ICC said. "On the day of the killing, the young Muslim men had arranged to meet the Christians at 10:00 am [local time] to ostensibly learn more about the Bible. They had gathered guns, bread knives, ropes and towels [as] they knew there would be a lot of blood, ready for their act of service to Allah," ICC stressed.
After Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault reportedly began. "The young men tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman’s hands and feet to chairs as they videoed their work on their cell phones," ICC said, adding that what "followed in the next three hours is beyond belief."
ICC said the men were "disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up in front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body parts were destroyed." The group added that "fingers were chopped off" and "their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open" as part of what it called "satanic torture."
It added that "possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers were likewise tortured. Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times and Ugur’s stabs were too numerous to count."
Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, and their "heads practically decapitated,"
Several hours later at 12:30 local time a fellow Christian reportedly arrived at the publishing house but discovered that the door was locked from the inside. After he called cell phones of the men, Ugur apparently answered his phone saying: “We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there.” Yet as Ugur spoke he heard in the background weeping and a strange snarling sound, ICC said, citing its investigation.
After he phoned police the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes and pounded on the door shouting: "Police, open up,!" reports said.
Initially the officer apparently believed it was a domestic disturbance, but when he heard another snarl and a gurgling moan he understood that sound as human suffering, ICC explained. The officer "prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who
entered to find a grisly scene."
Reports said the attack happened following Muslim protests against the distribution of Bibles and other Christian literature by the publishing house for which they worked.
One of the victims, Necati Aydin, a husband and father of two young children, was also an actor who reportedly played the role of Jesus Christ in a theater production that TURK-7 network aired over the Easter holidays.
Prosecutors have asked a court to allow jailing 11 suspects, 10 young men and a woman, pending trial over the gruesome murder of the three Christians. A 12th suspect, allegedly the leader, remains in hospital with a serious head injury after jumping from the third-floor office of the Christian publishing house in Malatya where the victims were killed, to escape arrest.
At least four of the suspects have reportedly been charged with "founding a terrorist organization and murder within the framework of the organization." In a first reaction, Tillman’s wife publicly forgave the those who killed her husband saying “they know not what they do.”
ICC President Jeff King said he was impressed by the "contrast between the acts of the killers and the forgiveness of Tillman’s wife." He said it was "glaring and in the end seems to be at the center of this story for us. For in the end, these events serve as a stark reminder of the difference between Islam and Christianity."
He added that, for "the ‘faithful’ Muslims, following their god meant brutally killing three men [with the excuse] "we did this to protect Islam". For the faithful Christians, following God meant forgiving the men who had tortured and murdered their loved ones."
The attacks have added to concern among Turkish Christians who comprise about 0.2 percent of the mainly Muslim nation of over 71 million people. The murders followed the January murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and the shooting of Italian Roman Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in the town of Trabzon in February 2006. (With reporting from Turkey).