Prosecutors in Turkey are trying to obtain a punishment of life in prison for American pastor Andrew Brunson, whom they have accused of espionage.
— FDD (@FDD) March 13, 2018
Brunson was first arrested and held without bond in October 2016 because authorities suspected him of being “a member and executive” of an Islamic movement led by Fethullah Gülen, the exiled Turkish cleric who is believed to have orchestrated the coup in July 2016 to overthrow the government, Christianity Today reported.
A formal indictment presented in a criminal court in the city of Izmir on Tuesday accuses Brunson of obtaining information for the purpose of political and military espionage. The pastor is also being accused of associating with the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has been outlawed.
A formal trial is expected to go forward for Brunson if the court accepts the indictment. Neither he nor his lawyer have been privy to his legal file containing investigation reports from local authorities.
In a statement, the two vice chairs of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga, called for Brunson’s “immediate release” and urged President Donald Trump’s administration to “redouble their ongoing efforts to secure Pastor Brunson’s release.”
“No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American,” they said, calling Brunson’s detainment as a “miscarriage of justice.”
“The government of Turkey has detained Pastor Brunson largely based on a purported ‘secret witness’ and secret evidence, which they refuse to make public,” the statement read. “The Turkish government should reverse course immediately and we urge the international community to condemn this indictment.”
Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline, appealed her father’s case to the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this month, describing him as a “peaceful pastor” and “not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government.”
She added that it was “hard” when she visited him in jail in Izmir in August, because he was “so broken, so thin, so desperate.”
Jacqueline, who grew up in Turkey with her family, also said her father “loves and respects Turkish people” and “has been dedicated to serving them for two decades.”
She also shared a note that her father had given her to read before the U.N.:
“Let it be clear,” Brunson writes, “I am in prison not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am—a Christian pastor.”
The note from Brunson also states that although he misses his wife and children, “it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have before me.”
“My deepest thanks for all those around the world who are standing with and praying for me,” he concludes.
(H/T: Christianity Today)