The link below is to an article that reports on a ceasefire in the thirty year Kurdish War between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Ex-journalist, former volunteer at publishing house suspected of instigating slaughter.
ISTANBUL, February 12 (Compass Direct News) – A Turkish court has charged two more men for instigating the murder of three Christians in Malatya in 2007 – a former volunteer worker at the Christian publishing house where they were killed, and an ex-journalist suspected of ties to a group that tried to engineer a political coup.
The arrests add growing evidence to the belief that the murders resulted not just from five troubled youths incited by religious or nationalist anger, but from a larger plan to create chaos in the country and kill specific people.
A judge ordered the arrest of former journalist Varol Bulent Aral, 32, on Feb. 4 on suspicion of instigating the murder. The Malatya court had subpoenaed Aral multiple times to testify about his role in the killings, but he did not appear until last October after being arrested for other charges.
Plaintiff attorneys representing family members of the murder victims believe Aral incited the suspected ringleader of the attacks to murder by convincing him foreign missionaries were connected to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, a domestic outlawed terrorist organization.
Aral has been connected to Ergenekon, an ultranationalist cabal of retired generals, politicians, journalists and mafia members under investigation for conspiracy in various murders. Over 100 people have been detained in connection with the network since July 2008.
Prosecuting attorney Erdal Dogan told the national daily Taraf that Aral’s arrest was an important, albeit insufficient, step in the trial.
“From the beginning, this suspect could have been included in the case as an instigator to murder,” he said. “This person had an inside connection [to the murder], and security forces also knew this.”
A total of nine men have been charged with the murders. Seven of them are in jail; Mehmet Gokce and Kursat Kocadag have not been detained.
Former Zirve Employee Indicted
Huseyin Yelki, 34, a Turk who has worked for Christian organizations, was arrested on Monday (Feb. 9) after suspected ringleader Emre Gunaydin implicated him for instigation of murder in testimony to a public prosecutor.
Yelki is a former volunteer worker at Zirve Publishing Co. in Malatya, site of the brutal torture and murder of two Turkish Christians, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and a German, Tilmann Geske, on April 18, 2007. Last week Gunaydin claimed in his testimony that Aral and Yelki worked together to instigate the attack.
Yelki’s testimony at a hearing last August at the Malatya Third Criminal Court sharply differed from Gunaydin’s account. He said he was working part time at Zirve’s Malatya office when Gunaydin and two other men visited there about a month or six weeks before the murders. Gunaydin introduced himself, saying he wanted to meet Necati Aydin. But when Yelki telephoned Aydin and learned he would be coming to the office an hour later, the three men left.
Yelki said that instance was the only time he had ever met Gunaydin, that he never saw the men again and that he could not remember their faces. In a statement to police, Yelki said that Gunaydin had completely fabricated their relationship, and that he (Yelki) did not believe Christianity and missionary activity were harmful to Turkey.
But plaintiff attorneys said they believe that there is good reason to believe that Yelki was involved in the murders.
“Emre Gunaydin gave a very detailed account of his collaboration with Huseyin Yelki, which is consistent with other evidence in the court file,” said Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who leads the team of plaintiff lawyers.
“What Emre said indicates that they had a sophisticated relationship which goes back to 2006, and apparently Yelki was involved in the plot at every level and phase,” he said. “We already know that Yelki was also connected to Bulent Varol Aral, who undoubtedly has some dark connections with some deep-state elements.”
Regarding possible motives Yelki might have had for involvement in the murders, however, plaintiff attorneys said it was too early in the investigation to know.
Plaintiff attorneys said they are hopeful that the arrests of the two men will provide important answers to many questions regarding the true identity of masterminds behind the murder.
While the attorneys said they don’t believe Aral and Yelki are the masterminds themselves, they hope these two men could act as links for the investigation to go higher up the chain of command.
“In my opinion, Yelki and Aral are just middle guys between the real instigators and the ‘hit-men,’” said Cengiz, leader of the team of plaintiff lawyers. “Their inclusion into the court file has sparked hope inside me for the first time since the case has ever started. I hope we will be able to reach the higher links and deliver justice to them.”
The next hearing in the case is scheduled to take place in Malatya on Feb. 20.
Report from Compass Direct News
Muslims’ legal action against 1,600-year-old structure called ‘malicious.’
ISTANBUL, January 22 (Compass Direct News) – Syriac Christians in southeastern Turkey say a land dispute over the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery is part of a larger system of discrimination against the religious minority in this overwhelmingly Islamic country.
Muslim residents of southeastern Turkey dispute the boundary lines of an ancient Christian monastery dating to the fourth century as being unnecessarily large for the needs of a religious community. Islamic village leaders from Yayvantepe, Eglence and Candarli are attempting to confiscate one-third of the monastery’s property, claiming it was wrongfully appropriated and that they need it for their livestock.
Area Muslims also say the land in question is forest and thereby registered as land belonging to the State Treasury.
“Our land is being occupied by the monastery,” said Ismail Erlal, village leader of Yayvantepe, according to Cihan News Agency. “We make use of the forest there and pasture our animals; we won’t give up our rights.”
Among the most contentious issues are the monastery walls built around its perimeter, rebuilt 15 years ago. Village leaders complain in a lawsuit to obtain the land that the monastery has gone beyond its rightful bounds. In August the land survey office of Midyat said it had determined that 270 hectares of the monastery’s 760 hectares were government property, including land inside and outside the monastery’s walls.
A court in Mardin originally scheduled a hearing for Friday (Jan. 16) to determine the legal status of the monastery walls, but it was rescheduled to Feb. 11 to allow the court more time to examine the case. At the February hearing the court will determine if the 270 hectares of land belong to the government or the monastery.
Metropolitan Timotheos Samuel Aktas, leader of the monastery, answered in a report that the monastery has the right to leave its land uncultivated and has paid taxes on the property since 1937.
The state originally charged the monastery with being founded illegally, but it dropped those charges by canceling a hearing originally schedule for Dec. 24. Rudi Sumer, the attorney representing the monastery, said that the claim was groundless since the monastery has foundation status dating back to modern Turkey’s origins, not to mention centuries of existence beforehand.
The mayors of Yayvantepe, Eglence and Candarli also charged the monastery with attempting to proselytize young children (illegal in Turkey) and carrying out “anti-Turkish” activity.
Metropolitan Aktas said in a report that these claims were groundless and of the same provocative nature that has historically sparked violence against Turkey’s Christians.
“All the allegations are frivolous and vexatious, devoid of any logic or evidence, solely aimed with the malicious intent of rousing anti-Christian sentiments by the surrounding Muslim villages,” he said.
Mor Gabriel Monastery, founded in 397, is the most revered monastery for Syrian Orthodox Christians. It is inhabited by 15 nuns and two monks and is the seat of Metropolitan Bishop of Tur Abdin Diocese.
In recent decades the monastery has turned into a religious and social center for the country’s remaining Syriacs by offering schooling to children and teaching their ancient language of Syriac, a variant of the language spoken by Jesus.
“The monastery is everything for us,” said a Syrian Orthodox Christian who grew up in Turkey’s southeast. He added that many families in the area had named their children after Mor Gabriel. “Syriacs would give up everything for the monastery.”
An international outcry from the European Parliament and numerous Assyrian organizations throughout Europe arose in response to the charges, according to the Assyrian International News Agency. A member of the German consulate said his country would monitor the case closely, as Turkey is attempting to join the European Union and its human rights record has come under close scrutiny.
Many Syrian Orthodox Christians have left southeast Turkey in the last 30 years as violence escalated between the military and Kurdish terrorists. In the last five years, however, some Syriacs have begun returning home – only to find their property occupied by others.
Residents who fled Mardin province in the mid-1980s returned to find two of their village’s Syriac churches converted into mosques. And the demographic shift from Syriacs to Kurds has increased pressure on the monastery.
“Turkey must protect its Assyrian community,” said Swedish parliamentarian Yilmaz Kerim to the Hurriyet Daily News. He visited the monastery as part of a delegation in December. “There are only 3,000 left in Midyat.”
The lawsuit has the support of a local parliamentarian who claims Christians relished their opportunity to leave Turkey. Süleyman Çelebi, member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said Syrian Orthodox Christians had never come under pressure, despite their claim that they were exploited, and even emigrated away from Turkey “with joy” in previous decades.
The three villages that brought the lawsuit against the monastery overwhelmingly supported the Islamic-rooted AKP in last year’s national elections. Çelebi claims that the official boundaries of the monastery were established in Ottoman times but not properly observed by the Syriac Christians.
According to the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, Turkey grants full protection to churches, synagogues and other religious establishments to freely practice their own religions. But this treaty only designated Greek and Armenian Orthodox Christians and Jews, creating complications for groups such as the Syrian Orthodox and Protestants to open schools and churches.
Syriac Christians claim to be one of the first people to accept Christianity in the Middle East. Their historic homeland stretches through southeastern Turkey, but their numbers have dwindled to 15,000 following decades of government pressure and fallout from war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Report from Compass Direct News