Saturday, October 13, 2018

American Pastor Andrew Brunson Released by Turkish Government

On October 12, 2018, Turkish courts released American pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest. In court on Friday, Brunson was convicted of a “terror” charge, but as a result of the time previously served and good behavior, has been released from house arrest and his travel ban has been lifted. This will allow him to return to the United States.
 
After the hearing, Brunson left the courthouse and US officials said that he will be returning to his home in Izmir, Turkey before departing for the United States on Saturday morning. [Update: Pastor Brunson left Turkey late Friday for Germany to receive a medical examination before returning to the United States on Saturday.] 

US President Donald Trump tweeted, “PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!

Pastor Brunson has ministered in Turkey since 1993 and was originally detained with his wife Norine in October 2016. While his wife was released shortly thereafter, Pastor Brunson remained imprisoned despite a lack of formal charges. The first series of charges was brought 63 days into his imprisonment, and other charges continued to be added as time progressed.

Pastor Brunson faced charges of having links to terrorist organizations, an increasingly common accusation in Turkey against any individual or group that the government is looking to target. If Pastor Brunson had not been released today, he could have faced up to 35 years in a Turkish prison.

The United States government has been fighting for the past 24 months for his release. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “President Trump has had a focus on it [and] the administration’s had a focus on it. We’re very hopeful that we’ll see a good outcome before too long.”

Since Brunson’s arrest, tensions have been high between Turkey and the United States as negotiations were made on Pastor Brunson’s behalf. In August of 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on two Turkish cabinet members, seeking to pressure the Turkish government to release Pastor Brunson. The Turkish government is hopeful that his release will help solve the diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey.

Religious freedom in Turkey has significantly deteriorated since the 2016 military coup. Turkey is currently listed as a Tier 2 Country on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) annual report.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Turkey’s release of Pastor Andrew Brunson is most welcome news. For two years, he has been held as a political hostage by Erdogan and has been imprisoned in challenging circumstances. While we are pleased with his release, it is disappointing that Turkey has still convicted him of a terrorism charge. This is a stark warning to the local Church that Turkey remains a serious violator of religious freedom.

----- This article is from a Oct. 12, 2018 press release by International Christian Concern (ICC). You can visit their website at   https://www.persecution.org/