By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (Worthy News)-- A Turkish court on Monday, March 21, ordered five military officers and two civilians jailed as part of an investigation into the 2007 killings of three Christians at a Bible-publishing house.
It was not clear what role the suspects played in murdering Turkish citizen Necati Aydin and German Tilman Geske who were found tied to chairs by their hands and legs with their throats cut in Zirve Publishing Company, where they worked.
A second Turkish citizen, Ugur Yuksel, died later in hospital from multiple stab wounds. All three were members of the evangelical oriented Malatya Kurtulus Church.
The detentions of the seven suspects Monday, March 21, pending trial, came after prosecutors reportedly examined an earlier letter by a whistle-blower who claimed killing Christians was part of a wider conspiracy to topple the Islamic rooted government.
Prosecutors have suggested that those involved in the killings wanted to create chaos and to destabilize the country to trigger a military coup.
Those jailed Monday, March 21, were believed to be among about twenty suspects detained during raids in recent days on those alleged to have masterminded and incited these murders.
Among them is also a university theology lecturer, a non-commissioned officer from the Siirt Provincial Gendarmerie Command, and the retired colonel who commanded Malatya’s Provincial Gendarmerie Brigade at the time of the murders, trial observers said.
There have been several anti-Christian attacks in predominantly Muslim Turkey, where Christians comprise less than one percent of the population of 74 million.
The alleged coup plot included plans to target several Christians and minority figures, according to investigators.
Other murders linked to the alleged conspiracy, known as 'Ergenekon’, are said to include those of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in 2007 and of Catholic Priest Andrea Santoro in 2006.
Hundreds of people, including military officers, politicians and journalists, are already on trial for allegedly attempting to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which came to power in 2002.
Critics claim the government is using the case to jail secular-minded foes and to silence opponents.
The government insists the trial is strengthening democratic rule in Turkey, which is seeking membership of the European Union. Officials say they want to unravel shady networks that once operated with impunity in Turkey.
However, the recent arrests of several journalists, including two prominent investigative reporters, have sparked protests from journalists groups and expressions of concern from Western governments and international media rights groups.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) last week condemned Turkish police raids into the homes of nine journalists in Istanbul.
In a statement to BosNewsLife they said the raids represent "a serious violation of the confidentiality" of journalists’ sources.
Prime Minister Erdogan has denied there is any government attempt to silence journalists.
However, "These denials are just not credible,” said Aidan White, IFJ/EFJ General Secretary in a statement to BosNewsLife. “The authorities are clearly embarked on a campaign to discipline dissent and to stifle free speech in Turkey." (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).