An American pastor held in a Turkish jail since October of last year for “membership in an armed terrorist organization” has reached out to the U.S. Embassy in that country hoping to communicate his plight to President Donald Trump, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.
On Tuesday, Rev. Andrew Brunson gave the U.S. Embassy in Turkey a statement he hopes will reach the president’s desk.
Will the Turkish government face no consequence for stubbornly continuing to hold an American citizen as a political prisoner? Even though I have a long public track record as a church pastor, they falsely accuse me of being a member of an Islamist terrorist group. I have been imprisoned since October 7, 2016. During this time the Turkish government has produced no proof and has rebuffed numerous attempts by the American government to secure my return to the United States. In fact they are treating the U.S. government with contempt and paying no price for it.
I plead with my government – with the Trump Administration – to fight for me. I ask the State Department to impose sanctions. I appeal to President Trump: please help me. Let the Turkish government know that you will not cooperate with them in any way until they release me. Please do not leave me here in prison.
Brunson, a U.S. citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has worked as a Christian missionary in Turkey for the past 23 years.
Pastor Andrew Brunson – a U.S. citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina – was summoned to the local police station in Izmir, Turkey on the morning of October 7, 2016. He believed he would be receiving a long awaited permanent residence card. Pastor Brunson, who is a U.S. citizen, has been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a Christian church with the full knowledge of local authorities.
Upon arriving at the station, he was informed he was being deported based on being a “threat to national security,” a common excuse for deportation in Turkey. It became clear that he was being arrested and would be detained until deportation. He was fingerprinted, searched, and had his phone, pen, etc. taken away. He was denied a Bible. But instead of being deported, he was held with no charges for 63 days, during which time he was denied access to his Turkish attorney. He was placed in solitary confinement for part of this time, with his glasses and watch confiscated.
Then on December 8th, after being detained for 63 days, things took a dire turn. In the middle of the night, Pastor Andrew was taken to a counter terrorism center in Izmir and then on to court. He was questioned and has been falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” The charging documents state no “evidence has been gathered” against him. A Turkish judge had the option to deport Pastor Andrew, release him on weekly sign-ins at the local police station, or imprison him. The judge chose to remand Pastor Andrew to prison.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) traveled to the Turkish capital Ankara in December where he met with the department of justice officials, Fox News reported.
“For the first time, we learned what these charges are,” Lankford told Fox News. “They were given to me orally.”
Lankford told Fox News that the Turkish authorities alleged Brunson had helped Kurdish refugees — Turkey labels the Kurds an insurgent group — and that the pastor attended a conference put on by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accused of plotting the 2016 coup from Pennsylvania where he now lives.
“We really, really want to get this case, my father’s case, to President Trump,” Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline Brunson told Fox News this month. “We really feel it would be helpful to have the president’s support and have him personally arguing for my father’s case to get him back home safely to his family.”
“That’s kind of on hold because I want my dad to be able to walk me down the aisle,” she said. “I want him there. He only gets to see me get married once.”