American Pastor Andrew Brunson is scheduled again for trial next month. Wrongfully detained in Turkey and denied due process rights for years, his story is stirring American and European government officials to action.
A U.S. citizen who pastored churches in Turkey for more than two decades, Brunson was arrested by Turkish authorities in October 2016 and held without charges for months. The North Carolina native was then kept in prison after being accused, without compelling evidence, of being a member of a terrorist group. A few months ago, an official indictment was filed by Turkish prosecutors, who are seeking a 35-year sentence for the American pastor.
Brunson’s April 16 trial, however, was delayed, and is now scheduled for July 18.
“Pastor Brunson is being mistreated in Turkey because of his faith in Christ,” noted NRB’s president & CEO, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson. “My prayers are with him and his family, and I urge the U.S. government to redouble its efforts to secure his release. It is intolerable for Pastor Brunson to suffer as a pawn of the Turkish government, which is supposed to be an American ally.”
With the new court date approaching, government representatives and religious freedom advocates continue to work on drawing attention to Brunson’s plight.
On Monday, the U.S. Senate passed a defense policy bill that would delay the planned sale of more than 100 F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, noting that the Turkish government “continues to unlawfully and wrongfully detain Andrew Brunson, a United States citizen, and continues to deny Mr. Brunson due process rights consistent with international norms.”
“Congress will not tolerate any foreign government’s efforts to use United States citizens for political leverage,” the bill stated.
Meanwhile, more than a hundred European Parliamentarians have publicly expressed their support for Brunson, asking for his release. Earlier this month, 75 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from 8 political groups and 20 countries signed an open letter to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the request of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), which is actively defending Brunson before the European and international institutions as well as in the mainstream media.
The letter reminds Erdoğan of the European Parliament resolution on the current situation of human rights in Turkey adopted in February 2018, which “urges the Turkish Government to release pastor Andrew Brunson and to allow him to return home.”
In addition, at the Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, 27 more deputies declared that it is “urgent that Turkey respects its European commitments in putting an immediate end to this scandalous situation,” according to ECLJ, an international affiliate of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). The issue was also discussed at the diplomatic level, among the ambassadors of the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe, including the Turkish ambassador.
On Wednesday, Coptic Solidarity and Middle East Forum organized a rally in front of the White House to support Brunson.
Save the Persecuted Christians, one of the participating organizations, said the protest was a way for those concerned about Christian persecution to show solidarity with the imprisoned pastor and to shed light on the situation for Christians in Turkey under Erdoğan.
“The STPC Coalition continues to work diligently to disseminate actionable information about ways in which the American people can help those — like Pastor Brunson — who are being persecuted,” stated the coalition, of which NRB’s president is a member.
A petition to “Save Pastor Andrew from a Turkish Prison” is currently being circulated by ACLJ, and has been signed so far by more than 575,000 individuals.
To read and sign the petition, click here.
By NRB Staff
Published: June 21, 2018