By BosNewsLife News Center with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)– Memorial services were held in Turkey Wednesday, April 18, for three Christian workers who exactly five years ago were murdered in the Turkish southeastern city of Malatya amid reports of a new attack during Easter.
On April 18, 2007, Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske were bound to their chairs, tortured and stabbed repeatedly at the the Zirve Christian publishing house in Malatya, their throats slit, investigators and Christians said.
“You see everyday is April 18. Everyday I have to live without him,” widow Susanne Geske said earlier in an interview. Five suspects went on trial for killing the men, but there is still no conviction.
“Their trial opened in November 2007 and became complicated as a result of efforts to identify those behind the perpetrators,” explained Middle East Concern (MEC) an advocacy group closely following the trial.
“On April 9 the court heard that the indictment was not yet ready, and the hearing was postponed until June 18. The indictment is expected to name former local gendarmerie commanders and other officials who are already in custody,” as those ordering the killings, added MEC in a statement.
As Christians in Istanbul and Malatya were holding memorial services, there were reminders that violence against Turkey’s Christian minority continues.
Pastor Semir Serkek, who said he knew the three murdered Christian converts personally, was reportedly attacked April 7 while preparing for Easter at his Grace Church in Istanbul’s Bahcelievler district.
Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency, quoted him as saying that four young men knocked in the door, demanded to enter and threatened to kill him if he didn’t recite the Islamic testimony of faith.
One of them allegedly kicked Serkek in the chest, casting him down the entrance steps to the ground.
Serkek reportedly said he had known verbal abuse since childhood and especially after he began openly sharing his faith 35 years ago, but “this was the first time I was hit, so this was surprising and made me sad.”
This year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that Turkey — home to about 4,500 Christian converts — be designated a “Country of Particular Concern” for its alleged long-term and systematic limitations on non-Muslim communities.