Saturday, November 16, 2013

Turkish pastor arrested on human trafficking accusations

A Turkish Protestant pastor arrested by police in the Black Sea province of Samsun this week is accused of involvement in prostitution and the human trafficking of refugees.

Pastor Orhan Picaklar of the Samsun Agape Church was summoned to local police headquarters for questioning on Monday afternoon (November 11).
The 42-year-old pastor was detained until Wednesday evening in a police investigation led by the Morals Bureau of the Public Order Division. The criminal case was reportedly based on a telephoned complaint from an unidentified person.
“It is obviously a deliberate plot,” a spokesperson from the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey told World Watch Monitor, saying that Picaklar had been harassed for years by local media and city authorities who openly opposed the church’s existence.
While in detention with seven other individuals, Picaklar learned they were all being named as suspects in the same “human trafficking operation”.
“I hadn’t ever seen any of them, and none of them knew me either!” Picaklar told World Watch Monitor.
But the Turkish press was quick to trumpet the pastor’s arrest for the next two days, before Picaklar was finally brought to testify before the prosecutor on Wednesday afternoon.
A former Muslim who converted to Christianity 21 years ago, Picaklar has pastored the Samsun Agape Church since 2003. The congregation was granted formal “association” status in 2005, although like other new Christian congregations in Turkey, it is still prohibited by law from official government recognition as a church.

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