An Assyrian priest and two other Assyrian Christians were arrested Friday in Turkey and slapped with terror charges for allegedly offering bread and water to Kurdish militants who visited his monastery, according to reports.
Priest Sefer Bileçen of the Mor Yakup Monastery in southeast Turkey was detained last Thursday, according to the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency in addition to two other Assyrian Christians, Musa Tash Takin from Sidri and Youssef Yar from the Üçköy. They remain detained.
According to the outlet, Turkish gendarme accused the pastor of aiding and abetting the Kurdish militant outfit aligned with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group recognized by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization.
Bileçen’s arrest reportedly came in response to testimony provided by a member of the PKK-aligned People’s Defense Forces (HPG) who claimed that Bileçen gave bread and water to HPG members when they visited the church in 2018.
Bileçen is said to be the only caretaker of the monastery located in the town of Mardin.
Evgil Türker told Mezopotamya news that the arrest of Bileçen was unnecessary and called for his release.
“As men of God, priests have to comply when somebody asks for help, no matter what their religion, race, language or ideology,” Türker was quoted as saying.
Türker compared Bileçen’s case to that of American missionary Andrew Brunson. Brunson, who served for two decades as a missionary in Turkey, spent over two years in prison in Izmir after he was accused of supporting Kurdish fighters and the Gülen movement, charges that Brunson claimed were false.
“We may not have a [U.S. President Donald] Trump of our own, but Turkey will have a second case of pastor Brunson,” Türker was quoted as saying.
Reports of Bileçen’s arrest drew the ire of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a congressionally mandated panel of independent experts who advise the White House, Congress and the State Department on Religious Freedom issues.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith