Turkey Urged To Protect Religious Freedoms

TURKEY URGED TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS

Agence France Presse — English
April 19, 2007 Thursday

Current EU president Germany urged Ankara on Thursday to take
measures to protect religious freedoms after one German and two
Turkish protestants were killed in the east of the country.

The appeal followed a meeting in Istanbul of the ambassadors of the
27 European Union member countries to discuss the gruesome murders
in Malatya on Wednesday in the latest attack against minorities in
EU-hopeful Turkey.

"These despicable murders were strongly condemned and all member
countries expressed sympathy to the families of the victims, who
include a German national," German Ambassador Eckhart Cuntz said in
a statement.

"We see the murders as an attack not only against individuals, but
also against the principles of freedom and tolerance," he said.

The assailants tied the three men up and cut their throats at the
offices of a publishing house, which belongs to Turkey’s tiny
Protestant community and published Bibles and other books on
Christianity.

"I believe that Turkey will guarantee the safety and particularly the
religious freedoms of both Turkish and foreign nationals," Cuntz said.

He called for support for "the implementation of reforms that aim at
(ensuring) a modern, open and tolerant society" in Turkey.

The EU has often pressed Ankara to guarantee the freedoms of its
tiny non-Muslim communities, which consist mostly of Orthodox Greeks,
Armenians and Jews concentrated in Istanbul.

Wednesday’s murders followed the killings of Italian Roman Catholic
priest Andrea Santoro in the northern city of Trabzon in February 2006
and of prominent ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul
in January.

The attack raised concerns that nationalism and hostility towards
non-Muslims is on the rise in Turkey, which has long argued that its
EU membership would build a bridge between East and West.

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