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Investigation into murders of publishing house employees overly focused on victims' "missionary activities"

(BIANET/IFEX) - The trial concerning the murder of three men working for Zirve Publications starts on 23 November 2007. Of the 32 investigation files, only eight are about the murders, while the rest relate to "missionary activities".

On 18 April, Tilman Ekkhart Geske, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yüksel were murdered in their office in Malatya. They worked for Zirve Publications, which publishes books relating to Christianity. As the International Publishers' Association (IPA) said at the time of the killings, "The murder of the employees of the Zirve publishing house is not only a tragedy in itself. It is also an attack on freedom to publish."

The trial of seven people accused of involvement in their murder starts at the Malatya Penal Court in southeastern Turkey on 23 November. The case is considered an important indication of how Turkey handles crimes committed against people with different religious beliefs or from different social groups, particularly after the murders of priest Andrea Santoro in Trabzon in 2006 and journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul earlier in 2007.

Judging from the 32 investigation files that have been sent to the joint plaintiffs, it seems that the investigation has focused on "missionary activities" rather than the murders. BIANET has been told that only seven or eight of the folders are concerned with the murder, while the others focus on missionary work.

For instance, the files take note of the people the three murdered men met with since 2005 and give a detailed account of their activities. The same attention to detail has not been displayed in the reports on the murder suspects.

Five of the defendants have been in detention since the attack. They are accused of "founding and being members of a terrorist group", "killing people as part of the terrorist activities", and "depriving people of their freedom". Emre G., Salih G., Cuma Ö., Abuzer Y. and Hamit C. are the five detained defendants.

Kürsat K. and Mehmet G. are to be tried without detention for "being members of an armed organisation." The indictment calls for prison sentences from five to ten years.

Five other suspects have been released from detention, but will be tried.

Emre G. was found at the crime scene immediately after the murder and tried to escape by jumping out of a third-floor window. After receiving treatment for his injuries, he has been in detention and is accused of planning the attack. Under Article 314/1 of the Turkish Penal Code, the "leadership of an armed organisation" is to be punished with ten to fifteen years' imprisonment. In accordance with Article 82/1-a, which refers to the "planned, deliberate killing of a person", the indictment calls for three life sentences in solitary confinement for each of the five detained suspects.

According to the indictment written by Malatya Public Prosecutors Mehmet Badem and Ömer Tetik, the five detained suspects will also be punished for violating the immunity of the workplace.

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