"THEY ARE TRYING TO TAKE OUR COUNTRY AWAY, TAKE OUR RELIGION AWAY"
Malatya - Turkish police have detained five more suspects in the gruesome murder of three people at a publishing house that distributed bibles and Christian literature, officials said on Thursday.
A total of 10 have now been taken into custody over the killings on Wednesday in the eastern city of Malatya that shocked the country and fuelled fears among Turkey's tiny Christian community.
The three victims, one of them a German, were found tied to chairs with their throats slit at the Zirve (Summit) publishing house that had previously received threats for dealing in Christian literature.
Five of the suspects, including a man who jumped out of a window to escape capture, were caught at the crime scene.
Announcing the arrest of the other five, Malatya governor Halil Ibrahim Dasoz gave no details, but said they were all of the same age group - young men aged 19 and 20.
Turkish Newspapers said all the suspects detained at the crime scene were found carrying a letter that read: "We did it for our country. They are trying to take our country away, take our religion away."
Police have yet to make a statement on the motives for the murders, but the press on Thursday were united in the belief that nationalist and religious zeal were the likely root cause.
"Religious brutality in Malatya," read the headline of the left-leaning daily Cumhuriyet, while the liberal Radikal condemned "The massacre of missionaries."
Several newspapers linked the attack to others against Christian minorities in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, including the killings of a Roman Catholic priest last year and an ethnic Armenian journalist in January.
"Ultimate treason number two," headlined the mass-circulation Sabah.
The victims of the attack were named as 46-year-old German Tilman Geske and Turkish citizens Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel.
Aydin was the pastor of the 30-strong Protestant community of Malatya, Ihsan Ozbek, the chairperson of the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey, told AFP.
Ozbek described Tilman as a "simple member" of the Protestant community in the city and said Aydin and Yuksel worked for the publishing house.
"The community in Malatya never received any threat," said Ozbek, who is also the pastor of the Salvation Protestant Church in Ankara.
"There was only one incident in 2005, a protest against the publishing house", which is owned by the Protestant community, he said.
Media reports said the publisher had been the target of protests by nationalists accusing it of seeking Christian converts.
An aide to the Malatya governor told AFP that Zirve "was engaged in missionary activities."
Proselytising is generally viewed with suspicion in Turkey, whose population is 99 percent Muslim. Small Greek Othodox, Catholic, Armenian and Jewish communities are concentrated mainly in Istanbul.
Turkey, which is seeking to join the European Union, prides itself on religious tolerance, but a recent series of attacks has raised concerns that nationalism and anti-Christian hostility are on the rise.
In February 2006, Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro was shot dead as he prayed in his church in the northern city of Trabzon. A teenager was convicted of the murder and jailed for nearly 19 years.
Five days after the murder, a Roman Catholic priest in Izmir, western Turkey, was harassed by a group of young men and, in July, another Catholic priest was stabbed and wounded by a man officials described as "mentally disturbed" in the Black Sea port of Samsun.
In January, journalist Hrant Dink, a prominent member of Turkey's Armenian community, was gunned down in the street in Istanbul. A 17-year-old, detained along with 11 other suspected ultra-nationalists, confessed to the killing.Malatya - Turkish police have detained five more suspects in the gruesome murder of three people at a publishing house that distributed bibles and Christian literature, officials said on Thursday.