Man Arrested Over Plot to Kill Turkish Priest

Turkish police have uncovered a plot to murder a priest, throwing the spotlight once again on religious freedom and security for Christians in the predominantly-Muslim yet secular country.

Turkey's daily Milliyet newspaper reported on Monday that a young man was detained in the coastal resort of Antalya on Sunday for his plot to kill Orthodox priest and Turkish national Ramazan Arkan.

While police confirmed that a young man had been taken into custody, they said they were unable to comment further on the details of the case, reported Reuters.

According to a report in Milliyet, however, the suspect told police he had been influenced by "The Valley of the Wolves" television series and was due to appear in court on Monday. "The Valley of the Wolves" series is popular among Turkish ultra-nationalists.

Turkey has seen a spate of violent attacks and killings of Christians in the past year. In December 2007, in the port city of Izmir in western Turkey, Italian Catholic priest Adriano Franchini survived a knife attack in his church.

In April, the international Christian community was left in shock after three Christian men – a German national and two Turks – were horrifically murdered by extreme nationalists who slit their throats in the Bible publishing house where they worked.

The murders in the eastern town of Malatya raised serious concerns within some quarters of the European Union as to whether Turkey, which is applying for entry, can fully protect the religious freedoms of the Christian population – a tiny minority accounting for only 100,000 of Turkey's nearly 75 million inhabitants. The issue of religious freedom in Turkey has been an issue since talks on Turkey's entry began in 2005.

In 2006, Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro was shot dead in his church in the Turkish city of Trabzon on the Black Sea. A teenager is currently serving a prison sentence for the murder.

Some Turkish nationalists feel that national security is threatened by the presence of Christian missionaries in the country. In 2005, the state minister overseeing Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Aydin, openly accused foreign missionaries of stirring political turmoil, and damaging social peace and unity through their evangelistic activities.