Syriac monk on trial for terrorism after allegedly giving bread to PKK member

Sefer Bileçen, a Syriac monk, appeared in Turkish court last week for the latest hearing in his trial on charges of supporting terrorism for sharing food with a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Bileçen, also known as Monk Aho, faces between two and 15 years in jail if found guilty of the charges, reported on Friday.. He was arrested in January last year along with two other Christians in the country’s southeast following an anonymous tip.

The PKK has been fighting a four-decade war for political autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds at the cost of about 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish. The group is labelled as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

Bileçen was held in custody for four days following his arrest. He was released pending trial. His next court hearing will be held in April, said.

The other two Christians arrested are village headmen from the region, Washington-based NGO International Christian Concern (ICC) said citing local media. 

Assyrian Christians are one of the oldest communities in the region and many are based in Turkey’s southeast, where the conflict between the PKK and Turkish army is concentrated.