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Court case against priest evokes bitter memories for Turkey’s Assyrians 

Turkey’s tiny Assyrian community views a jail term handed to an Assyrian priest on “terrorism charges” as an official strong-arming tactic, while Assyrians around the world call for dismissal of the case. 
Mor Gabriel Monastery

A Turkish court verdict that sentenced an Assyrian monk to a prison on terrorism charges has set off an outcry among the Assyrian communities and civic groups across the world, yet Turkey’s Assyrian community remains mostly silent. Their silence reflects the tiny community’s fears and concerns. 

The life of Assyrian priest Sefer Bilecen, who heads a historic monastery in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, drastically changed after two men appeared at his door in 2018. Turkish authorities identified the two men who asked for food and water from the priest as outlawed Kurdish militants in January 2020 and detained the priest. Bilecen was released pending trial. Earlier this month a local Turkish court sentenced him to two years and one month in jail for “aiding and abetting terrorists.” Bilecen will remain out of jail until the end of the appeal process, but the ruling left Turkey's some 5,000 Assyrians heartbroken.

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