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ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ

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ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ
April 17, 2012, Tuesday

Malatya Protestant massacre: 5 years later and 7 years before

I have before me a nine-page-long document. It is addressed to the İzmir prosecutor. The first sentence of the petition says, “Plaintiffs Necati Aydın and Ercan Şengül are Turkish citizens and Protestant Christians.”

The petition goes on with quite strong wording, accusing the gendarmerie and its illegal unit, the Gendarmerie Intelligence Group Command (JİTEM), of creating false evidence against plaintiffs and illegally restricting their freedoms.

This document, dated June 23, 2000, was about quite a controversial series of events.

Aydın and Şengül went to the town of Kemalpaşa, close to İzmir, to distribute Bibles. They were stopped and taken into custody by the gendarmerie. They were interrogated by gendarmerie officers who introduced themselves as members of JİTEM, the illegal gendarmerie unit that was quite involved with all the atrocities perpetrated against Kurds in southeastern Turkey in the ‘90s.

After staying at the gendarmerie station, they were taken before the court and sent to prison. Distributing Bibles and spreading religious propaganda in Turkey are not crimes. However, as these two Christians learned in court, there were “complaints” against them, allegedly brought forward by some villagers, accusing them of insulting Islam.

They stayed in prison a full month before being brought before the court once again for their first hearing. In this hearing, three villagers who had allegedly complained about Aydın and Şengül appeared before the court and confessed that their first statements were false and they were given under duress. The gendarme had invited the villagers to the station and forced them to incriminate the two Protestants. After hearing these statements from the villagers, the court released them.

After hearing their story, I wrote this nine-page complaint about the gendarmerie and delivered it to the İzmir prosecutor. My legal struggle produced no results. Back then it was not possible for anyone to get statements from these gendarmerie officers. All the doors were closing in our faces.

This is also the story of how I met with Necati Aydın, who was later killed in Malatya in 2007 with two other Protestants, Uğur Yüksel and Tilman Geske. If my petition had been accepted in 2000, would it have been possible to prevent this barbaric murder from taking place seven years later in Malatya? If we had managed to bring these gendarmerie officers before the court, somehow managed to reveal the networks within the state that monitored and recorded the Protestants’ every step and understood all these connections, we could have most probably prevented this barbaric murder from taking place in Malatya, seven years after Necati was taken into custody.

Five years after the murder, all signs indicate that JİTEM and Ergenekon are responsible for the Malatya massacre. A former gendarmerie commander and some gendarmerie officers are in prison waiting to be tried. We are all waiting quite anxiously for the second indictment in this case, hoping to see the wider network behind the murders. It is very unfortunate that the Hrant Dink case came to a premature ending. I really hope that we can break this vicious cycle of injustice in the Malatya massacre case. I believe that if the Malatya massacre case goes well and if we manage to reveal the whole picture and the networks operating from behind the scenes, we can shed some light on other murders. We can have a new understanding of the context in which these murders were planned and the ways they were accomplished. If we had managed to reveal the mentality that placed Necati in prison in 2000, we could have stopped the Malatya massacre in 2007. If we can reveal the real network behind the Malatya massacre, we may prevent future murders. This will be our only consolation on the fifth anniversary of this tragic murder.

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