News in Bet-Nahren, Assyria

Turkish Court Tries Assyrian Priest For Backing Armenians
by Associated Press
Posted: Friday, December 22, 2000 09:12 am CST


ANKARA (AP)--An Assyrian priest stood trial Thursday for inciting religious hatred for allegedly backing international calls for Turkey to recognize the Ottoman Empire's killings of Armenians early this century as genocide.

Turkey says that hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed while the Ottoman Empire tried to quell civil unrest, but insists the killings didn't amount to genocide.

Prosecutors charged Yusuf Akbulut with causing ethnic and religious hatred and demanded his imprisonment for up to three years. He allegedly also said that Assyrians were among the victims.

Akbulut, of the Assyrian Virgin Mary church in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, denied the allegations and said his conversations with local reporters in October were published without his consent.

The court in Diyarbakir adjourned the trial to Feb. 22, to study a video tape of the interview.

A leading human rights activist, Akin Birdal, also faces prosecution for reportedly referring to the killings as "genocide."

Dozens of writers, intellectuals and journalists have been jailed under Turkish laws which limit freedom of speech.

In November, the European Parliament called on Turkey to recognize the killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire early this century as genocide. Earlier, the French senate recognized the killings as genocide.

In the U.S., a House resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide was shelved early October after President Bill Clinton warned that its passage could seriously damage ties with Turkey.

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