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Employees of a Christian publishing house in Turkey were found slain last week, adding to a trend of attacks on free expression in the country, report the International Publishers' Association (IPA) and IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET).

On 18 April, assailants entered the Zirve publishing house in Malatya, southeastern Turkey, where they bound the hands and feet and slit the throats of three workers: two Turkish nationals, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and a German missionary, Tilman Geske.

The Zirve publishing house prints Bibles and Christian literature, and had been a previous target of threats and protests by nationalists who accused the company of proselytising.

Local press reports say 12 people will be charged in connection with the killing, and that the suspects are believed to be members of a group of nationalist Islamist extremists.

Fifteen NGOs in Malatya released a joint declaration condemning the incident, says BIANET, and a small group gathered in Istanbul to protest the murder.

The murders were the latest in a string of attacks on Turkey's Christian community, which comprises less than 1 percent of the 70 million population. A suspected nationalist killed Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink in January.

"There seems to be an escalation of the brutal attacks on freedom of expression in Turkey. The spiral of death must come to an end," says IPA's Bjørn Smith-Simonsen.

According to "The New York Times", the trend worries the government, whose prime minister has been pushing hard for Turkey's entry into the European Union. Some European politicians have opposed membership, arguing that Turkey does not fit in culturally or religiously.

Visit these sites:
- IPA:
- "The New York Times":
- "Turkish Daily News":
(24 April 2007)

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