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November 3, 2006

Two converts to Christianity accused of "insulting Turkishness"

These two dangerous criminals are charged with, among other things, compiling data on private citizens for a local Bible correspondence course, essentially proselytizing for Christianity, something not very well tolerated in a predominantly Muslim country:

Ankara (AsiaNews) - Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan, two converts to Christianity, are facing trial on November 23, and could get six months to three years in prison for "insulting Turkishness", inciting hatred against Islam and secretly compiling data on private citizens for a local Bible correspondence course.

Both men, who reject the accusations, were charged under Section 301 of Turkey's Penal Code which makes "insulting Turkishness" an offence. This is one of the thorniest issues on Turkey's path to entry in the European Union.

Turan Topal, 46, and Hakan Tastan, 37, are not the only Turkish citizens hauled into court for allegedly violating Section 301--97 other preceded them, among them the 2006 Nobel Prize laureate in literature Orhan Pamuk.

Haydar Polat, attorney for the two Christians, told Compass Direct News, a Protestant news agency, that his clients are accused of approaching grade school and high school students in Silivri on the Marmara Sea coast, 70 kilometre (45 miles) west of Istanbul, and attempting to convert them to Christianity.

According to the written charges, the three plaintiffs, identified as Fatih Kose, 23, Alper, 16, and Oguz, 17, claimed the two Christians had called Islam a "primitive and fabricated religion" and had described Turks as a "cursed people."

They also accused the defendants of opposing the Turkish military, encouraging sexual misconduct and procuring funds from abroad to entice young people in Silivri to become Christians.

Tastan and Topal deny all charges.

Apparently the charges were based on three or four trips the two men had previously made to Silivri months earlier to meet a teacher and several high school students who had contacted an Istanbul-based Bible correspondence course requesting a visit.

Not a very good move on the part of Turkey; this certainly won't do much for their bid to join the EU.

Hat tip - Gary G.

Posted by Richard at November 3, 2006 9:40 PM

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