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Christians in Turkey Acquitted of ‘Insulting Turkishness’

Compass is reporting that after four years of legal battle in a Turkish court, a judge acquitted two Christians of insulting Turkey and its people by spreading Christianity, but not without slapping them with a hefty fine for a spurious charge.

Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan
(Photo: Compass Direct)

The CDN story said that four years ago, gendarmerie officers produced false witnesses to accuse Turan Topal, 50, and Hakan Tastan, 41, of spreading their faith and allegedly “insulting Turkishness, the military and Islam.”

At the Silivri court, CDN reported, an hour west of Istanbul, Judge Hayrettin Sevim on Thursday (Oct. 14) acquitted the defendants of two charges that they had insulted the Turkish state (Article 301) and that they had insulted its people (Article 216) by spreading Christianity.

“Sevim cited lack of evidence. He found them guilty, however, of collecting information on citizens without permission (Article 135). They were sentenced to seven months of imprisonment each, but the court ruled that the two men instead could each pay a 4,500 lira (US$3,170) fine instead of serving time, said their lawyer Haydar Polat,” said the CDN story.

Tastan expressed mixed feelings about the verdicts. “For both Turan and I, being found innocent from the accusation that we insulted the Turkish people was the most important thing for us, because we’ve always said we’re proud to be Turks,” Tastan said by telephone. “But it is unjust that they are sentencing us for collecting people’s information.”

The story added, that the charge was based on the fact that people interested in Christianity voluntarily provided contact information about themselves to a research center where the two men had worked as volunteers. Their lawyer said they will appeal the “unjust conviction.”

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