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Turkey : Kidnapped Priest Freed

ICC Note

“At least society will look at it as a ‘partial good work’ [if I kidnap a Christian] – that’s an advantage,”

November 30 Turkey (Compass Direct News) – A Syrian Orthodox priest kidnapped in southeastern Turkey Wednesday (November 28) walked free from his captors this afternoon, a church source said.

Father Edip Daniel Savci, 42, was released around noon in the city of Batman , 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Midyat, where he was kidnapped.

“He called us himself and gave us the news,” Yuhannan Gulten of Syrian Orthodox Mor Gabriel Monastery south of Midyat told Compass. “We immediately called the police, and they went to get him.”

Gulten said that the priest’s captors had set him free without outside intervention. He was unable to answer questions about Savci’s health, the identity of his kidnappers or whether a ransom was paid.

“All we know is that the security forces are accompanying him here, and we expect him within half and hour,” Gulten said.

Conservative Haber7.com news website claimed that Savci’s captors had also been captured but did not give further details.

The kidnappers had demanded 300,000 euros (US$443,720) in exchange for the priest’s release when they contacted a fellow clergyman from Savci’s mobile telephone soon after the abduction.

Batman Gov. Vekili Aziz Mercan said that Savci had been released in the city center and telephoned Mor Gabriel monastery from a business in Batman’s Sirinevler neighborhood, according to CNN Turk website.

The website reported that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned Mor Gabriel Monastery to congratulate the monks on the priest’s release.

It remains unclear why unidentified assailants first abducted and then released the hard-working priest, who took care of 12 children at his monastery and doubled as the village repairman.

Though the incident appears to have been done for money, the current anti-Christian atmosphere in Turkey may have influenced the kidnappers, columnist Murat Belge wrote today.

“At least society will look at it as a ‘partial good work’ [if I kidnap a Christian] – that’s an advantage,” the writer for daily Radikal said, in an attempt to simulate the kidnapper’s reasoning.

He commented that the words, “be smart” which reportedly preceded the captor’s demand for ransom in a text message sent on November 28, were an indication of an anti-Christian motive.

The phrase alludes to Yasin Hayal, one of the men charged with planning the death of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in January. As Hayal was brought to an Istanbul courtroom in January, he shouted an apparent threat to Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, “Orhan Pamuk, be smart! Be smart!”

Violent attacks against Christians in Turkey have been on the rise in recent years.

In February 2006, a young Turkish teenager shot and killed a Catholic priest in the northern port city of Trabzon . Last week saw the opening hearing of the trial of five young men who tortured and murdered three Protestants at a Christian publishing house in Malatya in April.