In the early fall of 2010, I wrote this Catholic World Report piece on the mysterious and gruesome murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese in Iskenderun:
Iskenderun, a port city on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean, near the Syrian border, is the seat of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia, one of three Latin ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Turkey. The apostolic vicar, Bishop Luigi Padovese, an Italian Capuchin who also served as president of the Turkish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, met with government authorities on Thursday morning, June 3, 2010, to discuss problems affecting religious minorities.
Later, at around 1:00 pm, the bishop answered the door to his residence and was accosted and stabbed repeatedly by his driver, Murat Altun. Police arrested the 26-year-old, unmarried Muslim man that same afternoon; the suspect was carrying the murder weapon and confessed to having killed his employer.
The Vatican nuncio in Turkey, Msgr. Antonio Lucibello, speaking on June 3 to the ANSA news agency, confirmed initial, sketchy reports of the bishop’s violent death and the driver’s confession. “It’s strange, because I have always seen the man as someone who was very devoted to Padovese.” …
According to an account by Geries Othman for AsiaNews (affiliated with PIME, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), a witness who worked as the bishop’s assistant testified that the bishop was stabbed in the house but had the strength to go outdoors and call for help. When he fell to the ground in the yard, he was decapitated.
Neighbors said they heard the bishop cry out, but they also heard Murat shouting, immediately after the murder, “I killed the great Satan! Allah Akbar [Allah is great]!” The modus operandi was identical to that of members of Islamic fundamentalist groups as they carry out executions.
Now, over two years later, Geries Othman reports for Asia News that Altun has been sentenced for the murder:
Ankara (AsiaNews) – Murat Altun, the young man who killed Bishop Luigi Padovese [,former Vicar Apostolic of Anatolia (Turkey),] on 3 June 2010, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The verdict came [on January 22, 2013,] at 1 pm local time. According to Turkish legal experts, he has another 12 more years in prison since he has already been in jail for three years. In case of good behaviour, he might be released after six years and five months.
Murat Altun was 26 years old at the time of the murder. At the end of the trial, he said that he “was sorry for killing Monsignore Luigi, who was the last person who could harm him. At that moment, I was not in control of myself.”
After his arrest, Altun wavered in the explanations he gave for slitting the prelate’s throat, blaming successively mental illness, an Islamic ritual or a morbid homosexual relationship…. Altun’s lawyers pleaded insanity, presenting medical assessments indicating that their client was not mentally competent to stand trial.
In June 2011, a medical commission in Istanbul determined that the accused was mentally competent to stand trial. The latter however proved frustrating as hearings were quickly and repeatedly postponed. On several occasions, various prelates called on the Turkish government to shed light on the murder.