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Priest Awaits Trial for Holocaust Acknowledgment

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  • gary.a.sarkessian@lmco.com
    Priest Awaits Trial for Holocaust Acknowledgment Assyrian International News Agency(www.aina.org) Dec 12, 2000 Eighteen days before his trial, Fr. Yusuf
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2000
      Priest Awaits Trial for Holocaust Acknowledgment

      Assyrian International News Agency(www.aina.org)
      Dec 12, 2000

      Eighteen days before his trial, Fr. Yusuf Akbulut remains
      imprisoned under house arrest in Diyarbakir, Turkey for
      acknowledging the combined genocide of Assyrians and Armenians in
      the 1915 Holocaust (AINA11-23-2000). Fr. Yusuf had been branded a
      traitor and his remarks treasonous by reporters in the Turkish
      newspaper in early October, 2000. Fr. Yusuf's trial is reportedly
      scheduled for December 21, 2000 in the Milli Guvenlik Mahkemesi or
      State Security Court associated with the Turkish military.
      Although Fr. Yusuf's is now allowed contact with others and has
      legal representation, his house arrest is believed to be
      potentially more perilous than his earlier direct imprisonment
      since he is now vulnerable to vigilante or rogue security force

      According to Mr. Jim Dehart of the U.S. State Department's
      Turkey section, Fr. Yusuf has been incarcerated under house arrest
      under article 312 of Turkish law for "inciting racial enmity." Mr.
      Dehart acknowledged that the US State Department information was
      limited and dependent upon the US Consul office in Turkey which in
      turn ostensibly received information >From the Syriac Orthodox
      Church hierarchy in Turkey.

      The high profile given to this case in Turkey has led to
      generalized apprehension on the part of the Church hierarchy in
      Turkey out of outright fear to not provoke further, more
      generalized reprisals by Turkish security forces. With the
      collective intimidation of the remaining Assyrian community,
      information emerging from Turkey itself remains potentially
      tainted, censored and incomplete. The Assyrian community in Turkey
      now finds itself hard pressed to even vocally protest Fr. Yusuf's
      arrest or the accompanying threats against the community as a

      "Discrimination of the worst kind."

      Not surprisingly, international attention on Fr. Yusuf's case
      has focused still greater scrutiny on Turkey's abysmal human rights
      record. Notably, five members of the German parliament including
      Monika Brudlewsky, Angelika Graf, and Claudia Roth last week
      visited Turkey to evaluate the human rights situation. One of the
      parliamentarians, Ms. Brudlewsky, met with Fr. Yusuf in his home
      and reported him quite fearful and intimidated. Following their
      investigation, the group summarized the plight of Christians in
      Turkey by saying they suffered "discrimination of the worst kind."

      Ms. Brudlewsky's heightened concern regarding the outcome of
      Fr. Yusuf's trial has led her to plan to return as an official
      observer of Fr. Yusuf''s trial on behalf of the German government.
      Accompanying Ms. Brudlewsky will be Ms. Gabriele Yonan, a German
      national who is an internationally renowned scholar and author on
      the Assyrian Holocaust of 1915. Additional European officials to
      observe the trial include Swedish parliament members Carina Hgg,
      the head of Sweden's foreign commission, and Yilmaz Kerimo, who is
      of Assyrian/Syriac origin.

      "US Congressional support for this case is expected..."

      The Swedish Foreign Minister, Ms. Ann Lund, is also expected
      to make enquiries on the fate of Christian minorities in Turkey
      while visiting Ankara. At the grassroots level, Assyrians
      throughout Europe and North America continue to vociferously
      denounce Turkey's arrest of Fr. Yusuf. In the US, it is hoped
      that the Assyrian campaign may lead several members of the US
      Congress to formally request Fr. Yusuf's unconditional release.
      US Congressional support for this case is expected to include a
      host of representatives still fuming at Turkey's hardball tactics
      and political blackmail during deliberations over the Armenian
      Genocide Resolution, HR 596, earlier this year.

      In recent years, Turkey's tarnished human rights record has
      often been cited as a major impediment to entry into the European
      Union. The potentially devestating effects of such high profile
      human rights cases on Turkish standing have not escaped Turkish
      officials as they have shriekingly struggled to denounce those
      critical of their handling of Fr. Yusuf's case. In one instance,
      a Turkish tabloid "Takvim" labeled the German parliamentarians
      "slanderers" and demanded "make these slanderers shut up!"

      "Reports of threats presumably by Turks against Assyrian activists
      advocating on behalf of Fr. Yusuf in the US"

      Of still greater concern, though, have been reports of threats
      by Turks against Assyrian activists advocating on behalf of Fr.
      Yusuf in the US. The seriousness of the threats has already led to
      investigations by local police and are likely to provoke a Federal
      Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe for possible links to Turkish
      State sponsored intimidation and terrorism of American citizens.
      In a similar situation prior to the Gulf War, the FBI investigated
      reports of Iraqi threats against Mr. Sargon Dadesho of the
      Assyrian National Congress.
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