Turkey sends Assyrian priest to prison
Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 10:51 AM UT
by TurkeyPurge. January 12, 2020.
An Assyrian priest from the Mor Yakup Church, also known as Church of Saint Jacob in Nisibis, in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin, was sent to prison on Friday, Turkish media reported.
The reason for the arrest of the priest, Sefer (Aho) Bileçen, is not yet known due to the confidentiality of the investigation as decided by the prosecutor’s office.
Two Assyrian villagers were also detained as part of the same investigation.
Yuhanna Aktaş, the head of the Assyrian community in Mardin, complained about the lack of information about the priest’s arrest.
“The Mor Yakup Church is on Mount Bagok, and there is not even a house around it. Aho Bileçen is very young. He left İstanbul and moved here. There is no one around him other than a few students. We cannot understand why a priest would ever be arrested,” said Aktaş.
The Mor Yakup Church is 1,500 years old.
Assyrians along with Armenians were subjected to massacres and forced displacement during World War I. The incidents are recognized by many – though not by Turkey – as genocide. This, and ongoing discrimination decades later drove many thousands to seek safety abroad.
As a result, there are only around 25,000 Assyrians left in Turkey. (Turkish Minute)
CSW sources have confirmed that Assyrian Christian priest, Father Sefer Bileçen (known as Father Aho), was released on bail on 14 January, and is now awaiting trial.
Father Aho, who has been taking care of the 1500 year-old Mor Yakub Monastery in Mardin province for many years, was arrested by the Turkish Gendarmerie in the Assyrian town of Üçköy (Arkash in Syriac language) on 9 January 2020.
Joseph Yar, chair of the town’s council, and Musa Taştekin from Dibek village were also arrested. Both are also Assyrian Christians. Musa Taştekin was released after initial interrogations; however, it is unclear whether Joseph Yar has also been released.
The three men were reportedly arrested on the basis of secret testimony by a member of the People's Defence Forces (HPG), the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been designated a ‘terrorist organisation’ by Turkey.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “While we welcome the news that Father Aho has been released on bail, it is still deeply concerning that the charges against him remain in effect. We call on Turkey to drop the charges against him and the other Assyrian Christians. We call on the international community monitor this case closely and to raise the plight of religious minorities during Turkey’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, urging the government to end all forms of discrimination and uphold constitutional obligations to protect and respect the rights of citizens regardless of their religious affiliation or ethnic background.”