Turkish Ambassador to U.S. visits Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel Church in New Jersey following U.S. Ambassador Satterfield’s visit to monastery of convicted monk Aho

NEW JERSEY, U.S. — On Sunday, Turkish Ambassador to the United States Hasan Murat Mercan visited the Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel Church in New Jersey. He was welcomed by the church council and members of the congregation who sat with him for lunch.

The time of the visit may not be entirely coincidental. The visit to the Mor Gabriel congregation in New Jersey comes days after a Turkish court in Merdo (Mardin) sentenced Syriac Orthodox monk Aho to 25 months in prison for allegedly supporting a terrorist organization.

Monk Aho was arrested on 9 January 2020 on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” but released on parole also after public pressure. He was charged with having given food and water to members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is designated a terrorist organization in Turkey. In his testimony the Syriac monk does not deny having given food and water but that he did not know that the people were members of the PKK organization.

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David M. Satterfield visited the Mor Gabriel Monastery in Tur Abdin, southeastern Turkey, just two days after the verdict was handed down.

Ambassador Mercan was among the founding members of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Since publication, the Turkish Embassy in the United States has deleted the original tweet and tweeted the same message swapping “Assyrian” for “Syriac”.