Andrew Brunson — the American pastor who is facing up to 35 years in prison for charges leveled against him by the Turkish government — has said that he looks forward to the truth coming out. Pastor Brunson has spent the past 18 months in a Turkish prison following his arrest on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government.
Despite pressure from former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to secure Brunson’s release, he remains in prison for allegedly being linked to a rebel group that was seeking to orchestrate a coup. Now, he is finally going to trial.
“I’ve never done something against Turkey. I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want the truth to come out,” Brunson told the court in the western Turkish town of Aliaga, north of the Aegean city of Izmir, according to Christian Today.
“I do not accept the charges mentioned in the indictment. I was never involved in any illegal activities,” Brunson added in fluent Turkish. His wife was present at the court appearance, alongside North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom, Sam Brownback.
Following the hearing, the court ruled that Brunson should remain behind bars as the trial progresses. His next hearing is May 7.
“The judge late today said the trial will be continued until May 7 and ordered Pastor Andrew Brunson to return to prison,” said American Center for Law and Justice Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow on his podcast. “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 and it is a prison where eight prisoners are to be held in one cell. Instead, there are 22.”
“The next three weeks are critical to turn up the pressure on Turkey,” Sekulow stressed.
A petition set up by the ACLJ to help get Brunson released from prison currently has over half a million signatures. You can sign it here.
“The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey,” Ambassador Brownback told reporters in a break from proceedings. “That relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”
“The administration is deeply concerned about this case,” Brownback added. “We completely believe factually he is innocent. Andrew Brunson is innocent. We are hopeful that the judicial system will find that, that he will be released, released soon.”
Brunson’s lawyer argues that his client has been imprisoned solely due to his Christian faith, and should be acquitted immediately. Ismail Cem Halavurt explained that Pastor Brunson, detained 18 months ago, faced charges that were “totally unfounded,” according to Reuters.
“There is evidence that shows Brunson was arrested due to his faith,” Halavurt explained to Reuters just before the trial began, noting that Brunson’s religious role had been “classified as aiding terror organizations.”
The Turkish prosecutors claim that Brunson was involved in a plot to overthrow the government.
But ACLJ Senior Counsel Cece Heil told CBN News that “Turkey has literally taken the position that Christianization is terrorism.”
“They have no specific evidence that Pastor Brunson has committed any crime,” Heil added. “The fact that he is a Christian, and specifically a Christian pastor, is what they are equating as terrorism.”
(H/T: CBN News)