A Turkish court on April 7 sentenced an Assyrian priest to two years and one month in prison on terrorism-related charges, online news portal Bianet reported.
The sentence comes just over a year after Priest Sefer (Aho) Bileçen of Mor Yakup Monastery, a historical church in Turkey's southeastern province of Mardin’s Nusaybin district, was detained alongside 12 others on charges of aiding the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Shortly after his arrest in January 2020, Bileçen released a statement saying he had given food to two PKK members who had come to his monastery.
“Two members of the organization came to the monastery in 2018. They asked me for food. And I gave it. It was detected afterwards. In response to this, the Gendarmerie Commander met me through the metropolitan bishop. I did not deny it. I wanted security measures to be taken so that this incident would not happen again. But no security measures were taken,” Bileçen had said in a statement shared with the Urfa Bar Association’s Human Rights Commission through his lawyer.
“I thought that the case was closed after the report was taken down. I would give no matter who came to my door. I need to do it religiously and philosophically. I cannot lie as I am a priest,” he had further noted.
Bileçen was released on Jan. 14, 2020 on judicial control pending trial.
During the final hearing of the case on April 7, Bileçen was not present in the courtroom at the time of his sentencing, although his attorney was present.
The Mardin 4th Heavy Penal Court found the priest guilty of “aiding” the PKK.
A recent report released by Amnesty International says that Turkey's judiciary continues to apply broadly defined anti-terrorism laws to “punish acts protected under international human rights law.”