Turkish court delays trial over Christians' killing

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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Nov 23 (Reuters) A Turkish court today postponed until January a trial for the killing of three workers at a Christian publishing house in April that sparked shock and outrage in both Turkey and the European Union.

The three Christians, two Turks and a German, had their throats slit by youths who burst into their Bible publishing house in the eastern town of Malatya on April 18, the latest attack on religious minorities in Muslim but secular Turkey.

The court decided to adjourn the hearing because the five defendants and their lawyers needed more time to prepare their defence, court officials said. The court set Jan. 14 for the next hearing.

State prosecutors have demanded life imprisonment for the suspects, who were brought to the courthouse today amid tight security. Many foreign journalists attended the hearing, underlining the strong international interest in the case.

''I believe in this country's secular system and justice. I want to believe that justice will prevail,'' the state Anatolian news agency quoted Suzanne Geske, widow of the slain German citizen, as saying.

Turkish media have said the attackers, aged 19 or 20, were motivated by an ultra-nationalist ideology that views Christian missionaries as agents of foreign powers working to undermine Turkey's religious and political institutions.

The case drew comparisons with the murder of Turkish Armenian writer Hrant Dink in Istanbul in January by a young nationalist gunman and the killing of an Italian Catholic priest in his church by a youth in 2006 in Trabzon.

Most of Turkey's 75 million people are Muslim and it has barely 100,000 Christians, mostly of Greek and Armenian origin.

Reuters RSA RN2317

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