Top ex-general Hurşit Tolon freed after release in trial into murders of Christian missionaries
Hurşit Tolon was released from the Silivri prison facility after being imprisoned for some 29 months. AA PhotoRetired General Hurşit Tolon, one of the most prominent high-ranking army officers facing accusations in several coup cases, has been freed from jail following a June 10 court ruling over the murder of Christian missionaries in April 18, 2007, which became known as the Zirve Publishing House trial.
Tolon, a former commander of the First Army, was also released as part of the Ergenekon case in March, following a Constitutional Court ruling in favor of an individual application filed by the former Chief of General Staff retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ, on the grounds of long-imprisonment.
Tolon, who had been imprisoned for some 29 months, slammed a conspiracy against the military following his release from Istanbul’s Silivri prison facility.
“Despite all the adversities and bad examples, there are still conscientious judges who fear God and who have adopted independent and free trials as their maxim. It is thanks to them that I am here today,” Tolon told reporters on June 10.
The case investigates the possible implication of the Turkish military in the murder of German missionary Tilmann Geske and Turkish converts Necati Aydın and Uğur Yüksel at the Zirve Publishing House in April 2007. All three missionaries were violently killed, with their throats slit after being tied up and interrogated.
At the time, the murders fuelled fear among Turkey’s small Christian minorities and raised concern over rising nationalism and hostility toward non-Muslims in Turkey. It was alleged that organizations within the army used violence against minority groups as means of stirring up trouble in Turkey to facilitate a coup.
“Hundreds of patriots of the Turkish Armed Forces, sons of heroes, intellectuals, writers and scholars were the victims of such a conspiracy and such a plot in this place that will become a museum of injustice. Our people have said no to all these injustices in their conscience and in their hearts,” Tolon said after his release.
Suspects in the Ergenekon case had also been released in a dramatic fashion in March, following a change in the country’s anti-terrorism laws, which reduced the maximum pre-trial detention period from 10 years to five years and abolished the specially authorized courts, which has paved the way for a retrial.
Tolon was among the 19 suspects sentenced to life imprisonment in the Ergenekon trial, along with Başbuğ.