Washington, DC– In Defense of Christians (IDC), the nation’s leading advocacy organization for Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East, calls on Turkish authorities to immediately drop all charges against Father Aho Bilecen.
Father Aho is a Syriac Orthodox priest in Tur Abdin (southeast Turkey), falsely charged by Turkish authorities with assisting a terror organization, for giving bread and water to unknown individuals who appeared unannounced and hungry at the monastery’s front door in 2018. Turkish authorities claim the unknown individuals were associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in some unconfirmed capacity.
According to Father Aho, “I give food to everyone who comes to my door, whomever they may be, in the spirit of Christian charity.” Father Aho unequivocally denies knowing the identities of the individuals.
Trial has been postponed three times in less than one year, due to the government’s inability to offer evidence. Trial is currently docketed for April 2021, and will be closed to the press and all other observers. This creates the strong appearance that Turkish authorities are attempting to manufacture a case that otherwise has no merit.
As a monk, Father Aho chose a life of service and worldly poverty. As a Good Samaritan, his door was open to help those in need. The facts present a strong indication that Fr. Aho’s prosecution is a consequence of his Christian faith in practice.
“IDC calls on Turkish authorities to immediately drop all charges against Father Aho,” said IDC President Toufic Baaklini.