Date: 18 Apr 2007


Attackers on Wednesday (April 18, 2007) slit the throats of three people, one of them believed to be a German, at a Christian publishing house in eastern Turkey, in the latest assault on minorities in the country.

Two of the victims -- all of whom had their hands and feet tied -- were found dead in the offices of a publishing house that printed books on Christianity. The third died in hospital. Two of the deceased were reportedly employees of the publishing house.


"One of them is highly likely to be a German, the other is believed to be a Turk. The third is also likely to be a Turk, but we still have doubts," the Governor of the eastern city of Matalya, Halil Ibrahim Dasoz, told the NTV news channel.


An aide to the governor told AFP that the Zirve publishing house "was engaged in missionary activities."

The company had earlier received threats for printing books on Christianity, which were widely reported in the local press, NTV said.


Police detained four suspects at the crime scene, Dasoz said, adding that a fifth man, who was hospitalized after jumping from the window of the office, was also considered to be a suspect.


The chief physician of a local hospital said the man who jumped was in a "serious condition." Dasoz said the publishing house had not asked for any special protection from the police.


Handiwork of Islamists?


Wednesday's murders are the latest in a string of attacks in Turkey that have targeted minority groups and coincide with a wave of nationalism that has swept the strongly secular but predominantly Muslim country.

 The murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink sent shockwaves around the world
A few months ago, a Christian priest was murdered in the town of Trabzon and earlier this year Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink -- also from Malatya, was shot dead by an ultranationalist youth. A historic visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict last year was also accompanied by strong protests and followed a rise in violence against Christian clergy.


The killings come as political tensions rise between the powerful secular elite, including army generals and judges, and the religious minded AK Party government over next month's presidential elections.


Anti-EU effort?


Mustafa Efe, head of Istanbul-based Turkish media group, Mjde FM, told Deutsche Welle said the attacks on Christians would have a worldwide resonance and would lead to strong criticism against Turkey. 


"Turkey's path to the EU will cut short," he said.


Efe said he believed the violence against Christians ahead of the parliamentary elections were carried out by people who are against Turkey's entry into the European Union.


The Turkish government and other officials in Turkey have in the past criticized Christian missionary work while the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, has called for more freedom for the tiny Christian minority.


"It's too early to say but the attack appears to be the work of Islamists," Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based expert on Turkish security matters told news agency Reuters. "There are generally a lot of threats against Christians in Turkey, primarily against Turkish converts."

DW staff (sp)