At a 22 December court hearing in Famagusta, charges of giving training related to barista skills and wine appreciation without authorisation were read out against Ryan Keating. His lawyer told the court the charges are politically motivated and a violation of his human rights and religious freedom as outlined in the North Cyprus Constitution. The next hearing is scheduled for 7 February 2023.
Previously, Ryan had been charged with illegally importing Christian books and producing wine without a licence following a joint police and customs raid on his home and Exile Café in January 2021, which took place before the renewal of the existing licence had been approved. The earlier allegations led to two ongoing trials in the Iskele and Famagusta court districts.
In July 2022, police in Famagusta district started questioning regular customers at the café and church members (Exile Café is the registered address for the local church association) about Ryan, the café and church activities. Turkish converts to Christianity were also questioned about their faith and baptism. Following the police investigation, the current charges were laid in September.
Over the past two years Ryan has been summoned multiple times by police and prosecutors in both Iskele and Famagusta districts for questioning focused on his Christian activities, leading him to believe the charges are a pretext to harass him for religious or political motives.
Ryan has appeared in the Famagusta and Iskele courts more than 20 times with regards to the allegations. At the 22 December hearing no additional guarantees were demanded from Ryan and his friends to continue his release on bail.
Ryan is thankful this initial hearing went well and that his lawyer spoke boldly, presenting the underlying political motivations to this case. Ongoing prayer is requested that:
- God will continue to strengthen and encourage Ryan during these challenges and that his lawyer will have wisdom in defending him
- The court will not demand additional security from guarantors
- God will encourage those café customers and church members who were brought in for questioning and made to sign statements
- Despite the opposition, the church and café will continue to flourish and be a blessing to the community