Government Correspondence Regarding Father Akbulut
The President of the German Bundestag
Prof. Dr. Rainer Vogt
Dear Professor Voigt
I thank you for your letter of December 1, 2000 in which you call attention to the criminal procedure against the Syriac-orthodox priest, Yusuf Akbulut in Diyarbakir, Turkey.
I can assure you that Mr Akbulutís fate is known in the German Bundestag. A delegation of the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid led by Ms Claudia Roth, MdB and leader of this committee, visited Turkey in November 2000 and had several talks with the leader of the Syriac-Orthodox Church in his monastery, Mor Gabriel. Ms Monika Brudlewsky, MdB, and Mr Carsten Hübner, MdB, went to Diyarbakir to see Mr Akbulut personally and promised him support from the German government.
Ms Brudlewsky was also present on the first day of the trial, December 12, 2000, as an observer along with parliamentarians and governmental representatives from various countries.
The Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid is observing the Turkish accession negotiations in the European Union especially in regard to aspects of human rights, and there is a consensus in the German Bundestag that the treatment of religious minorities by Turkish officials will play a decisive role in these negotiations.
U.S. Congressional Letter on Fr. Yusuf Akbulut by US Congress
The Honorable Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Dear President Ahmet Necdet Sezer:
We write to request your active involvement in a matter concerning freedom of conscience in Turkey. On October 6, Father Yusuf Akbulut, an Assyrian priest in Turkey, was arrested by Turkish authorities for speaking his mind on the issue of atrocities committed against the Ottoman Empire's Christian minorities during the First World War. We ask that you convey to the Turkish Government that the United States expectsits allies to respect the right of freedom of expression for all human beings.
Father Yusuf is a priest from St. Mary's Syriac Orthodox Church in Diyarbakir, Turkey. In early October, he was approached by reporters from Hurriyet, a major Turkish newspaper. When asked his views on the subject of the Armenian Genocide of the early 20th Century, FatherYusuf replied that he believed not only that Armenians were killed, but also Assyrians. On October 4, Hurriyet published an article with a photoof Father Yusuf, labeling him "A Traitor Among Us." Two days later, hewas arrested by Turkish military security agents. He has been held since that time by the Turkish authorities, and is now under house arrest. Father Yusuf has been charged under Article 312, which carries a prison sentence of one to three years.
We understand that the subject of atrocities committed by the Ottomans during World War One remains a delicate one in Turkey. Nonetheless, we feel that disputes about the historical record should not be used as an excusefor denying any person their right to freedom of speech and conscience.We ask you to convey our concerns to the Turkish Government, and ask them to demonstrate respect for Father Yusuf's rights.
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