11/04/2020, 11.02
TURKEY
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Mardin, the trial of Assyrian monk charged with terrorism postponed to January

In a closed-door hearing, the judges heard witnesses and accused, then postponed the proceedings to January 27. Father Sefer (Aho) Bileçen said he did not know the people he helped and to whom he gave food. The charge based on the "confession" of a (alleged) former PKK affiliate.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - After hearing the witnesses and the accused himself, the judges of the Third Chamber of the High Criminal Court of Mardin have adjourned the trial of the Assyrian monk Sefer (Aho) Bileçen to January 27 next.

He is being tried on charges of terrorism, for having fed a Kurd affiliate - according to the judges - to the PKK movement, the Kurdistan Workers' Party outlawed in Turkey and whose leader Abdullah Öcalan has been in prison since 1999.

The third hearing was held in front of a limited number of people due to the new coronavirus pandemic and was banned from reporters and the press by order of the authorities.

The Assyrian priest, who faces life imprisonment in the event of a conviction on the basis of the accusation of "belonging to a terrorist organization", has answered the questions of the judges confirming what has been said since his arrest last January.

Father Aho reiterated that he did not know the people he had given food to and that he had done this on several occasions with other people in the past. Anyone who came knocking on the door of the monastery, he repeated, could always find something, even just a piece of bread.

Fr Sefer (Aho) Bileçen is the custodian of the monastery of Mor Yakup (St. James), a 1500 year old building, in the district of Nusaybin in Mardin, in the extreme south-east of Turkey, on the border with Syria. A historic building, that languished in a state of neglect since the Armenian genocide of 1915, and it is thanks to the commitment of the religious monk that it was reopened in 2010.

He was arrested following the testimony of an alleged (later repentant) affiliate of the PKK. His confession is decisive for the indictment of the Assyrian priest. A second witness, also in prison, said he did not know the religious and had heard from others that he distributed food to the needy as a gesture of charity.

The process comes at a time of great international tensions between Turkey and Western nations, in particular France. The tension between the two countries is also explained by Ankara's increasing closeness to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, proponents of a new caliphate and ancient enemies of the Wahhabi kingdom. Added to this is the internal politics of "nationalism and Islam" impressed by Erdogan, which has also affected the Christian community which denounces the conversion of ancient basilicas into mosques, as happened for Santa Sofia and Chora.

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