Istanbul -- Turkish authorities yesterday released the monk Sefer (Aho) Bileçen, from the church of Mor Yakup in the province of Mardin, detained for a few days on the charge - never officially formalized by the prosecutor's office - of "terrorism".
In reality, the Assyrian priest had been targeted by security forces for sharing food [a piece of bread, ed.] With a member of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party outlawed in Turkey and whose leader Abdullah Öcalan has been in prison since 1999.
The priest was arrested on January 9 together with two other Christians in the south-east of the country, in an area with a Kurdish majority and scene of confrontation and violence with the Turkish military. Local sources report that an anonymous complaint alleged that he distributed food to members of an outlaw movement (the PKK).
The Assyrian journalist and leader of the Belgian community David Vergili announced his release with a message via Twitter. The other two Christians (Josef Yar and Musa Tastekin) arrested together with the priest are both heads of two villages in the region.
During the frenzied days of the arrest, the head of the Assyrian Associations Foundation had compared the arrest of Sefer (Aho) Bileçen to the controversial story of the American missionary detained for 21 months by Ankara, speaking of "the second Pastor Brunson case". Among those who intervened to ask for the release of the Assyrian priest there is also the European Syrian Union.
While this case has come to a positive conclusion another case of mysterious disappearance within the Turkish Christian community has been reported. Assyrian sources have denounced the kidnapping of the last Christians of the Assyrian-Chaldean village of Meer (Kovankaya, ayaırnak province), in south-east Turkey, taken by "unidentified men".
A witness said that on the afternoon of 11 January, a group of people took Houmouz Diril and his wife Şimoni (pictured) from their home and led them to a destination that remains unknown at the moment. Their son, Remzi Diri, a priest of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Istanbul, who came to visit his parents the following day, found the house empty, thus denouncing the disappearance.
Houmouz Diril and his wife had returned to Meer a decade ago to live again in their home village. They were the only and last Christians in the village and in all these years they have repeatedly rejected the requests - if not intimidation - from the Turkish authorities to abandon the area. In an appeal, the Christians of the Turkish south-eastern province launch an appeal for prayer, to obtain the release of the two spouses, who are elderly and sick.