Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal

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Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal are two Turkish converts from Islam to Christianity who went on trial on November 23, 2006, several days before a visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI on charges of "allegedly insulting 'Turkishness' and inciting religious hatred against Islam".

Turan Topal converted to Christianity in 1989 whereas Hakan Tastan converted in 1994.

The men were accused of insulting Turkish heritage and inciting hate against Muslims while allegedly trying to convert other Turks to Christianity. The men were charged under Turkey's Article 301, which has been used to bring charges against dozens of Turkish intellectuals. 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, procuring funds from abroad to entice young people in Silivri to become Christians and secretly compiling data on private citizens for a local Bible correspondence course.

One paper, Zaman, even claimed that the two Christians were connected to Hakan Ekinci, the man who on October 3 hijacked a Turkish Airlines plane to Italy where he claimed to be Christian and a conscientious objector, and had appealed to Pope Benedict XVI for asylum.

The spokesman for the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey, Isa Karatas, says that there is no evidence against the men. He claims that charges filed against them are based only on verbal allegations without any proof.

The men have had several hearings since November, 2006, the most recent being April 18, 2007. Another hearing is scheduled for July 18, 2007 reportedly because one of the accusers did not show up. The next hearing was held in Silivri, Turkey, on September,2007, where the judge excused himself from the trial. He then referred the case to a judge in a higher court district in Istanbul. This first hearing is now scheduled for December 29, 2007.

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  • New York Newsday, "Two Christian Converts on Trial for insulting "Turkishness", November 24, 2006.