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The Plight of an American Pastor

Updated: Apr 27, 2018

Free Rev. Andrew Brunson from his Turkish prison!


“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” -Hebrews 13:3

EPC pastor Andrew Brunson has been languishing in a Turkish prison for over 16 months without formal charges before his indictment was presented a month ago. Since then, pastor Brunson testified in his own defense during a 10 hour hearing on April 16th of this year. The three presiding judges on the Turkish court ruled to return Andrew to prison for holding until the continuance of the trial on May 7th. Instead of being returned to the prison he was at prior to this hearing date, he's been sent back to a prison that is notorious for it's overcrowding. It is a prison where eight prisoners are to be held in one cell, instead, there are 22. US officials issued several appeals to the prison order and the Judge amended his order to allow Andrew to be returned to the previous prison which had less crowding.


National media has taken up the story though most open reports dramatically “tidy up” the accusations against Andrew. For example, from CBN the following was posted in an article dated April 16, 2018:


Brunson was arrested during the mass detentions and firings soon after a failed July 2016 coup attempt, initially on immigration violation charges.

He's now accused of having links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group which Turkey and the United States deem a terrorist organization, as well as links with the network of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara blames Gulen for being behind the coup attempt.

The indictment also alleges Brunson revealed state secrets and communicated with people who gathered details about gas and railway stations, information which would potentially be of strategic importance during a war or occupation.

The indictment states the charges are based on evidence obtained from Brunson's phone, as well as from witnesses given pseudonyms to mask their identity.


I say this "dramatically tidies up the accusations" due to the fact that Andrew's accusers (being anonymous) issued a 62 page injunction against Andrew in a rambling, conspiracy-laden rant hardly resembling the crisp three paragraph accusation reported. Here are some excerpts from Andrew's trial that indicate what kind of evidence is being used against him. Again, these testimonies are given anonymously by video phone where the speaker's image and voice are distorted:


One “witness” said, “In America there is an organization to which all churches are connected. It is called CAMA, and they have control of all the church workers that go to other countries.”


“In the United States of America, institutions such as the CIA, FBI, and NSA are members of CAMA, so that those who serve under the name of the Mormons or other churches are actually using the church as a temporary screen.”


“This structure inside the CIA, FBI, and NSA is known as the “Mormon Gang” by the US public and this term “Mormon Gang” is used often in American social media.”


In addition to such ridiculous conspiracy theories, photos and texts were taken from Andrew's phone in which he shared a photo of a good meal he had shared with friends and discussed with his daughter what a nice meal it was. The image was used to testify against Andrew because the dish was popular among Curdish people frequently associated with the group that organized the coupe against the government. This, they argue, is evidence of Andrew's collusion with traitors to the Turkish government!


Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Andrew’s home state, after visiting with Andrew, his family and attending the entire preliminary trial, recognized that the proceedings were that of a “kangaroo court” and the supposed evidence absurd. He vowed to return home and make Andrew’s situation known to the US Government. He has since issued a bipartisan letter of 66 Senators condemning the mistreatment of Andrew Brunson and urging the Turkish government to free him. He indicates that he also has the support of the House and is in the process of issuing a similar letter of condemnation from that body. Senator Tillis further indicated to the Senate, during a 15 minute address before the Senate on April 25th, that having 66 signatories on the letter also shows to Turkey that there is enough support in the US government to sanction less diplomatic efforts should Turkey continue the campaign of injustice against Andrew.


Yesterday news reports indicate that a bipartisan bill has been presented that would block Turkey from an arms deal in the making, effectively ending Turkey's bid for over 100 US made advanced F-35 fighter jets. This Bill proves that the letter below is not just political posturing but that the outrage at this abuse of human rights and justice will not be tolerated.


Please continue to pray with me, the EPC, many of our government’s leadership, and Christians all over the world for Andrew and others similarly imprisoned by Turkey. Further, I encourage you to write our senior Senator, Ron Wyden, in support of Andrew’s situation and any pertinent legislation. Jeff Merkley, the junior Senator from Oregon did sign the letter of support for Andrew, but our Senior Senator from Oregon did not. I encourage letters to Ron Wyden lauding Mr. Merkley’s support of Andrew and encourage him to join in.


Below is the text of the letter sent from the US Senate to President Erdogan of Turkey.

May the Lord bless Andrew, his family and those who support him.

In Christ,

Pastor Aaron


April 20, 2018

Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan

President

The Republic of Turkey

Mr. President,

It has now been over a year and a half since Turkish authorities detained Pastor Andrew Brunson, a law-abiding American citizen resident in Turkey since 1993, for alleged involvement in terrorism.

Pastor Brunson’s detention and formal arrest followed the Turkish government’s imposition of a State of Emergency after a violent coup attempt in July 2016 rightly opposed by Turks across the political spectrum. The United States has condemned the coup and respects the legitimate efforts of the Turkish government to ensure its perpetrators face justice and the Turkish nation is protected from any repetition of the coup attempt. The Senate supports the ongoing efforts to strengthen law enforcement cooperation between U.S. agencies and their Turkish counterparts, including with regard to investigating alleged participants in the coup plot.

However, we are deeply disturbed that the Turkish government has gone beyond legitimate action against the coup plotters to undermine Turkey’s own rule of law and democratic traditions. Under the State of Emergency, tens of thousands of Turkey’s own citizens as well as some citizens of the United States and other countries have been arrested, dismissed from employment or otherwise seen their lives destroyed on vague charges and dubious evidence. These actions by the government of Turkey are inconsistent with the commitment to law and justice that have historically been hallmarks of Turkish democracy.

That the Turkish government has consistently ignored bipartisan expressions of concern from the Congress has also been cause for concern. Nonetheless, we chose to respect the working of the Turkish judicial system and await a just outcome.

On March 13th, 2018 Turkish authorities issued an indictment alleging and purportedly detailing Pastor Brunson’s offenses. It is an absurd collection of anonymous accusations, flights of fantasy, and random character assassination. It is an insult not only to an unjustly imprisoned individual, but to the traditions of Turkish jurisprudence. That a Turkish court could accept such a document as the basis for prosecution removes any shred of doubt that Andrew Brunson, like other American citizens as well as Turkish employees of the U.S. Government detained under the State of Emergency, is being used as a political pawn by elements of the Turkish government bent on destroying the longstanding partnership between two great nations. Moreover, the suggestion in the indictment that the actions of Pastor Brunson to explain his religious convictions to others was somehow meant to undermine the Turkish state brings a new and deeply disturbing dimension to the case. It should trouble all Turks justly proud of Turkey’s centuries-old tradition of welcoming believers of all faiths.

The United States Government, and millions of Americans deeply concerned by the Brunson case, have been patient, in the hope that justice would be done and Pastor Brunson would be reunited with his family. The signatories of this letter have concluded that other measures will be necessary to ensure that the Government of Turkey respects the right of law-abiding citizens and employees of the United States to travel to, reside in, and work in Turkey without fear of persecution.

Sincerely,

Thom Tillis (R-NC), Janene Shaheen (D-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Bob Corker (R-TN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Dean Heller (R-NV), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Nelson (D-FL), David Perdue (R-GA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-ND), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Todd Young (R-IN).





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