The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation today upheld the verdict issued against the five perpetrators in the Malatya Zirve murder trial relating to the 2007 murder of three Christians. A demand from the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey (TeK) to uncover the wider network of organisers behind the criminal act was effectively rejected.
On 18 April 2007, Christian converts Ugur Yuksel and Necati Aydin and German national Tilman Geske were tortured and killed at Zirve publishing house in Malatya by Emre Günaydın, Cuma Özdemir, Salih Gürler, Abuzer Yıldırım and Hamit Çeker, who were caught at the scene of the crime.
On 28 September 2016, the 1st Criminal Court in Malatya sentenced each of the five perpetrators to three consecutive life sentences for murder, 30 years for “depriving a person of their liberty” and an additional 9 years and 9 months for “qualified attempted robbery.” In addition, two military personnel were given sentences of 13 years 9 months and 14 years 10 months and 22 days. Sixteen other defendants, believed to have been involved in planning the murders, were acquitted. The court acknowledged the involvement of unofficial organisations in the planning of the attack, but said that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. The defendants appealed.
On 18 July 2017, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of Gaziantep District Court upheld the sentences against the perpetrators, but acquitted the two military personnel for lack of evidence. The perpetrators appealed further, and the TeK appealed the acquittal of the military officers. Both of these appeals were dismissed in today’s verdict.
Unless the case is taken to the Constitutional Court, today’s decision will be final.
Although Turkish Christians are glad that the perpetrators are being punished for their crimes according to the Turkish justice system, they are frustrated that others implicit in the crime have not been similarly held to account. They request prayer that:
a) The five perpetrators will repent of their deeds and understand they suffer the consequences of their crime
b) Those others behind the attack will know that ultimately they too will face justice and be held to account
c) God will continue to comfort and strengthen all those affected by the murders.