ASIA/TURKEY - Trial against a monk postponed for alleged complicity with terrorist organization

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 middle east   oriental churches   monasticism   reception   charity   justice  

Mardin (Agenzia Fides) - The trial against Syrian Orthodox monk Sefer Bileçen, who was charged by the Turkish judicial authorities for complicity with terrorist organizations and activities, has been postponed for almost three months to January 27, 2021. The monk is a member of the Mor Yakup Monastery in Nusaybin (ancient Nisibi, currently included in the Turkish province of Mardin) and was arrested along with two other people by the Turkish security forces on 9 January 2020, accused of having offered help and cover members of the so-called People's Defense Forces (HPG), the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which was classified as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government (see Fides, 16/1/2020).
The indictment, based mainly on footage created with the help of drones used by Turkish intelligence services to monitor the monastery from the air, was upheld on January 20, 2020 by the Mardin Supreme Court, which attributes the responsibility to the monk of having received HPG militiamen in the monastery for a few days, at the end of September 2018. On January 16, 2020 the monk was allowed to leave the prison pending trial, with the obligation not to leave his residence .
Several sources have so far confirmed that the alleged "complicity" the Turkish authorities accuse the Syrian Orthodox monk of was simply offering food and drink to people who claim they are hungry and thirsty. This was also confirmed by an HPG militiaman arrested by the Turkish security forces in September 2019 and confessed to having visited Mor Yakup Monastery several times just to eat, drink and refresh himself.
Monk Sefer Bileçen himself, confirmed in a testimony released by his lawyers that he had offered the militiamen food and water as a mere sign of monastic hospitality reserved for anyone in need, without imagining that the people welcomed were members of HPG. "I will give food and water to anyone who comes to my door", says Father Sefer - because of my spiritual and philosophical convictions. And I mustn't make a false statement because I am a monk and a priest". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 4/11/2020)