Turkey Refuses To Release Jailed US Pastor

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

ANKARA, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)-- Friends and family members are praying for an American pastor who remains behind bars in Turkey on controversial terror and espionage charges after a Turkish court again denied a request for his release.

Andrew Craig Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was detained in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and a group led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the unrest.

Brunson faces up to 35 years in prison for “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and “espionage,” charges he vehemently denies. Gulen has also denied involvement in the coup attempt.

However last week, "Andrew was remanded to prison until his next hearing, October 12, when two more secret witnesses, one more prisoner and at least one other witness will testify against him," confirmed his wife, Norine Brunson.

But she made clear that friends and family believe in the power of prayer at a time of trial. "There have been many prayers for the legal side of things, but let's just pray for a miraculous release," she said. She also urged supporters to "consider fasting and praying for a "turnaround" according to {Bible verse] Daniel 7:21-22 - for Andrew" and other issues.

HEART TROUBLED

"I know his heart must be broken tonight, again. On the positive side, the name of the Lord was absolutely glorified!", she added in comments monitored by BosNewsLife on their Facebook website.

"As he explained why he was here, he gave the Gospel [of Jesus Christ in court and prison]," she said. "He publicly forgave all those who have come against him, forgiving as he has been forgiven," recalled Norine Brunson who maintains contact with her jailed husband.

She quoted him as saying that "It is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ." The pastor reportedly added: "Blessed am I, as I suffer for Him. Blessed am I, as I am slandered. Blessed am I, as I am being lied about. Blessed am I, as I am imprisoned. Blessed am I, as I share His suffering."

Brunson, who survived an earlier knife attack, has lived in Turkey for 23 years. He has been the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small evangelical congregation in Turkey's third largest city. “I am helping Syrian refugees [but] they say that I am aiding the PKK. I am setting up a church, they say I got help from [Muslim cleric] Gulen’s network,” Brunson said during an earlier court hearing, referring to the testimonies of anonymous witnesses in court.

One of the secret witnesses accused Brunson of trying to establish a Christian Kurdish state and providing coordinates to U.S. forces in the delivery of weapons to the Kurdish YPG militia, active in northern Syria.

SERVER OF JESUS 

“The service that I have spent my life on has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting,” Brunson reportedly told the court in the Aegean town of Aliaga, north of Izmir.

Brunson’s case has added to already strained relations between Turkey, an ally in the NATO military alliance, and the United States. Some U.S. politicians have been calling for sanctions against Turkey if Brunson is not released. U.S. President Donald Trump called Brunson’s detention "a total disgrace.” Trump added on the social media network Twitter:"He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!” Brunson’s trial was reportedly among issues Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed by telephone last week.

It has also underscored international concerns about the plight of devoted Christians in Turkey, a mainly Muslim nation. "In Turkey, a mixture of Islam and fierce nationalism leads to Christian persecution. Turks are expected to be Muslims, a conviction that’s fostered by the government in a ploy to consolidate power," said the respected Open Doors advocacy group in a recent assessment.

"After a failed coup in July 2016, President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has used the political instability to his advantage, trying to unify Turkey under Sunni Islam," the group explained. "This leaves little space for minorities and indirectly results in the persecution of Christians. Within the home, converts to Christianity in particular face strong opposition over their conversion from their families, as they're seen as traitors to both Islam and the Turkish national identity."

Several Christians, including church leaders and missionaries, have been targeted and even killed in recent years by extremists, most notoriously in 2007, when a German and two Turks were stabbed to death at a Bible publishing house in Malatya.

Christians comprise just below 200,000 people of the roughly 80-million strong population, according to Christian activists.

1 thought on “Turkey Refuses To Release Jailed US Pastor

  1. Turkey is a terrorist state allied with ISIS, its government must be taken out. All Western governments that claim to be democracies should put their actions where their words are and support and arm the PKK against the Turk dictatorship.

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