American pastor in Turkish jail could be freed Wednesday
KIRIKLAR, Turkey, July 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Jailed as a suspected terrorist and spy, Christian pastor and American citizen Andrew Brunson is looking at a glimmer of hope as he awaits his Wednesday court date from his Turkish prison cell.
The Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish news source, has suggested Brunson may be released this week after sitting in his cell for a year and a half.
“Being an evangelic(al) pastor, Brunson’s case has been attracting enormous attention in the U.S., both politically and religiously,” wrote Serkan Demirtaş in the Hurriyet Daily News last month. “It has caused a number of serious congressional interventions against Turkey, which would cause political consequences.”
“Brunson, who has been in jail since late 2016, seems to be much too costly for Turkey and his continued detention would further complicate the situation. That is why many diplomats in Ankara expect his potential release followed by his deportation pending trial on the July 18 hearing,” wrote the journalist.
It's been a gruelling experience for the 50-year-old pastor. He was scooped up during a crackdown on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political opponents in the wake of an attempted coup. He maintains that the only reason for his jailing is that he is a Christian pastor. His case has garnered bipartisan sympathy from U.S. politicians.
In jail since Oct. 7, 2016, Brunson has lost 50 pounds and is now taking antidepressants.
He was initially charged with membership in an armed terrorist organization. A Turkish judge has reportedly tried to link the Christian pastor to the political movement launched by Muslim Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, thought to be responsible for the attempted coup. The indictment also claims Brunson helped members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which the Turkish government regards as a terrorist organization, escape by letting them become Christians and leave the country.
“Andrew Craig Brunson, who is said to be engaged in spying and organizational activities across our country under the cover of missionary activity, is in contact with and meets with members of the terrorist organizations FETÖ/PDY and PKK, uses his religious title as a cover, and tries to interfere in our country’s internal affairs,” reads the indictment.
“Let it be clear, I am in prison, not for anything that I have done wrong, but because of who I am – a Christian pastor,” Brunson said in a statement. “I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet, I believe this to be true – it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ as many have before me. My deepest thanks to all those around the world who are standing with me and praying for me.”
“Pastors, I encourage you to lead your churches in a special time of prayer this weekend before Wednesday's trial,” wrote Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, on July 13.
Kept initially with 21 other inmates in a crowded cell designed to hold eight prisoners, Brunson was transferred to Kirklar Prison in August last year. There, he is in a cell with two other men accused of being members of the Gülen movement.
According to American Center for Law and Justice senior counsel CeCe Heil, the trial has included secret witnesses and absolutely no evidence.
“It is a sham trial being played out before the eyes of the world,” said Heil.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom says Turkey initially refused to allow a U.S. consulate representative to meet with Brunson, a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Members of Brunson’s church have to bring him food, water, and clothing but are not allowed to see him.
Throughout it all, though, the White House and American government have stuck up for the Christian pastor.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” President Donald Trump tweeted in April. “They call him a spy, but I am more of a spy than he is. Hopefully, he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”