December 29, 2008 / 5:06 PM / 11 years ago

Italian priest's attacker sentenced in Turkey

A view of the St. Antoine Catholic church in the western Turkish coastal city of Izmir December 16, 2007. Adriano Franchini, an Italian Roman Catholic priest, was stabbed at the church in the city of Izmir in western Turkey, police said, in an incident that recalled the fatal shooting of another Italian priest in Turkey in 2006. REUTERS/Stringer

ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish court sentenced a man to four years in prison Monday for stabbing an Italian Catholic priest in 2007 in a case that has highlighted attacks against Christians in Muslim but secular Turkey.

A court in the coastal city of Izmir in western Turkey passed the sentence against Ramazan Bay for stabbing Adriano Franchini, Anatolian news agency reported. Franchini survived the attack.

Bay told the court he had been influenced by media reports of other attacks against Christians, including the shooting death of Andrea Santoro, another Italian Catholic priest, in the Turkish Black Sea city of Trabzon in 2006.

Turkey’s small Christian community has been targeted in a spate of attacks over several years, prompting concern among human rights groups and the European Union, which Ankara hopes to join.

Three Christians, two Turks and a German, had their throats slit by youths who burst into their Bible publishing house in the southeastern town of Malatya last year.

Turkish Armenian writer Hrant Dink was also slain last year in Istanbul by a young nationalist gunman. A prosecutor on Monday indicted a colonel for failing to provide protection to Dink, who had received several death threats, Anatolian said.

Christians in Turkey number barely 100,000 in a total population of nearly 75 million.

Editing by Sami Aboudi

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