A Christian in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has been charged with illegal importation after being found in possession of Bibles, New Testaments and other Christian books.
Ryan Keating, originally from the United States, was charged after appearing at Iskele police station on 31 March. He also faces charges of operating a business without a licence.
Keating, who has been released on bail, has denied all charges and will now face a court case which could last up to three years. He will require special permission to leave Northern Cyprus during this time.
On 27 January police and customs officials raided Keating’s business in the Famagusta district, which also serves as the meeting place for a church.
They discovered 20 Bibles and 86 New Testaments in Farsi, 15 Bibles and 92 New Testaments in Arabic, and two boxes of John’s Gospels in both Farsi and Arabic.
The books were valued at between 48,000 and 58,000 Turkish lira (approximately £4,280 to £5,170; $5,880 to $7,100). If convicted Keating may be liable to pay a fine of ten times that value.
Keating and his family moved to Northern Cyprus after he was given in 2016 a lifetime ban on the grounds of national security from Turkey where he had lived and worked for ten years as a doctoral student and head of a Christian charity.
Since early 2019 approximately 70 overseas Christians have been expelled from Turkey as alleged threats to national security.
In 1974 Turkey invaded Christian-majority Cyprus and gained control of the northern third of the island. In 1983 the Turkish-administered zone unilaterally declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This declaration was rejected by the United Nations and the Republic of Northern Cyprus is only officially recognised by Turkey.