Trial begins for Christians

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Two men who converted to Christianity went on trial Thursday for allegedly insulting “Turkishness” and inciting religious hatred against Islam, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The trial opened just days before a visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI. During his visit, the pontiff is expected to discuss improved religious rights for the country’s tiny Christian minority who complain of discrimination.

Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, are accused of making the insults and of inciting hate while allegedly trying to convert other Turks to Christianity. If convicted, the two Turkish men could face up to nine years in prison.

The men were charged under Turkey’s Article 301, which has been used to bring charges against dozens of intellectuals.

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This post was last updated: Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 6:50 PM, Central European Time (CET)