By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)– A widow asked for prayers and rights activists expressed concern Saturday, May 8, after a Turkish court released suspects accused of torturing and murdering three Christian missionaries in 2007.
The five men walked free from their high-security prison in the eastern city of Malatya on Friday, March 7, because their time in detention while on trial exceeded new legal limits, local media reported.
They were allegedly involved in murdering German missionary Tilmann Geske and Turkish converts Necati Aydin and Uğur Yüksel who had their throats slit in April 2007 after being tied up and interrogated by five young Muslims about missionary activities at the Christian ‘Zirve Publishing House’ in Malatya.
Under a new law passed by Turkish Parliament last month, the detention limit for suspects on trial who have not yet been convicted was lowered to five years, paving the way for the five accused to be released on bail.
Two of the suspects currently out on bail detained at the scene of the crime, while another jumped from a third-floor window in an attempt to escape and was arrested after receiving treatment for injuries, according to rights investigators.
A man accused of instigating the murder of prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was shot dead outside the offices of his newspaper in Istanbul in January 2007, has also been released under the new laws, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Commenting on the prospect of coming face-to face with any of the accused men, Susanne Geske, widow of Tillman Geske, reportedly said: “Please pray that [God] gives us wisdom how to react in such a case”.
The murders at the time fuelled fear among Turkey’s tiny Christian minorities and raised concern over rising nationalism and hostility towards non-Muslims in Turkey, a mainly Muslim country seeking European Union membership.
Concerns that the suspects, who are facing possible life sentences, might attempt to leave the country once bailed have reportedly prompted lawyers for the victims to request they are fitted with electronic tagging devices upon their release.
“It is deeply disturbing to hear that the five men responsible for these brutal murders have been freed on bail, including three who were arrested at the crime scene,” said CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.
“We urge the Turkish authorities to take every necessary measure to ensure they remain in the country to face justice, which has been exceedingly long in coming,” he told BosNewsLife in a statement.
“This trial has been ongoing for six years with no indication of a conclusion in the near future.”
He said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims, to whom the release of these men has dealt yet another blow, no doubt leaving them with a deepening sense of uncertainty as to whether they will ever see justice for their loved ones. For their sakes, the Turkish authorities must ensure that justice is served as a matter of urgency.”