TURKEY Turkey, two years in prison for Assyrian monk prosecuted for a piece of bread

Father Aho will have to serve 25 months in prison because he is guilty of having “assisted a terrorist organization”. The religious, absent from the room, has always rejected all the accusations. The judges prevented access to the faithful and journalists. From Hagia Sophia to the Assyrian monk, Ankara’s repression against Christians grows.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Turkish judiciary today sentenced Assyrian monk Sefer (Aho) Bileçen to two years and one month in prison because it found him guilty of providing “aid to a terrorist organization.” He ended up on the bench, accused of terrorism, for having given a piece of bread to two people who had presented themselves at the gates of the monastery and, according to the prosecutor of the Mardin High Criminal Court, were members of the banned movement of the PKK.

The religious, absent from the courtroom, has always pleaded not guilty, rejecting all the accusations.

Better known as “Father Aho”, the custodian of the former Syrian Orthodox monastery of Mor Yakup (Saint Jacob, abandoned after the genocide of 1915 and restored by the same religious) was arrested on January 9, 2020, but was released four days later by the pressure of public opinion. According to the indictment, the priest is guilty of “belonging to a terrorist organization”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers outside the law.

The priest was arrested based on the secret testimony of a deserter and former member of the PKK, who allegedly reported him to the Turkish authorities. On the other hand, Father Ahò always insisted that he did not know the people who came to see him to ask for food, that he did not know that they were “members of the PKK” and that he helped them “out of Christian charity.” In today’s hearing, Forbidden to journalists like the previous ones, the monk Aho was sentenced by the judges to two years and one month in prison for “helping a terrorist organization.”

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The conviction comes in a growing domestic context of violations and abuses against the Christian minority. Authorities recently put a century-old Armenian church up for sale online, the latest in a series of episodes showing the trade in religious and cultural heritage, including the barbecue at the historic Armenian Sourp Asdvadzadzi church and the conversion of ancient basilicas into mosques Christian – which were museums from the beginning of the 20th century with Ataturk – of Hagia Sophia and Chora.

Controversial decisions consistent with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “nationalism and Islam” policy to hide the economic crisis, the coronavirus emergency and maintain power. In both cases, the Islamic authorities have covered with white cloth the images of Jesus, frescoes and icons that reveal the Christian origin of the buildings.

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