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.