Last week, we reported that Turkish prosecutors had called for an official indictment of jailed U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, which could mean life imprisonment for the North Carolin pastor. The response from supporters was overwhelming with many leaving extensive and heartfelt prayers. Less than a week since the announcement, prosecutors have announced a date for the trial to begin.
Imprisoned U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson is set to stand trial before a Turkish criminal court on Monday, April 16 on espionage- and terrorism-related charges that could imprison him for up to 35 years, essentially putting him behind bars for life in Turkey (#31 on Open Doors’ World Watch List). The pastor recently turned 50 on January 30, 2018.
Seventeen months after Brunson’s arrest in the port city of Izmir, a formal indictment accepted by the Izmir 2nd Criminal Court has been released to Brunson and his lawyer–but only after the 62-page document was leaked illegally to the Turkish media.
According to Brunson’s lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, “leaking of the indictment before the parties have seen it amounts to a “violation of confidentiality.”
Halavurt now has less than a month before the trial hearings open to examine the prosecution’s legal file of its investigations. The entire set of documents has been kept sealed until now, with Turkish prosecutors saying they have evidence supporting the indictment’s claims against Brunson.
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The Turkish indictment accuses Brunson of links with both of Turkey’s most prominent terrorist organizations: the FETO network of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, which is accused of orchestrating the July 2016 attempted coup; and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), leading a 35-year armed separatist struggle against the Turkish state.
The accusations against the pastor rest heavily on the testimony of several “secret” witnesses interrogated by the prosecution. One witness claimed Brunson had met frequently with a local leader of the FETO network. In questioning by the prosecutors, the pastor denied knowing or ever meeting the named individual and said he had never “knowingly or willingly” met with any FETO member.
Last June, the spokesman for the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, Soner Tufan, challenged the vague accusations against Brunson. He appeared in the pro-government press, saying, “Let the law proceed. Put forth the evidence, if you have any, and start the trial as soon as possible. Justice is all we want.”
An ‘Eclipse of Reason’
Once Brunson’s indictment was made public last week, Tufan commented in an Al-Monitor interview: “This is an eclipse of reason. To claim that Andrew was a FETO executive and sought to destroy this country is like an insult and offense to reason. Who would believe such a thing? He has spent an important part of his life trying to stay in this country, telling about Jesus in all his sermons and works. How could such a person be the member or the executive of an Islamic order?”
“Andrew Brunson is an innocent person,” Tufan told World Watch Monitor today. “The indictment does not contain any real evidence. There is no real legal proof to use against him. It is a very political hostage case. That is why [the Turkish authorities] had to demand the worst punishment against him, to make him more valuable.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared openly last September that he was willing to exchange Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish Muslim cleric living in exile in the United States, who Ankara accused of masterminding the failed coup. This January, Erdoğan went on to state that he would refuse to extradite any jailed “suspects” to the United States until Washington hands over Gülen.
From his prison cell in Izmir, Brunson recently wrote: “Let it be clear. I am in prison not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am – a Christian pastor. I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet I believe this to be true: 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 me and praying for me.”
On March 18, 2018, Brunson’s wife, Norine, shared a note from her husband on the couple’s Facebook page:
“To the extent that I am known, I want to be known as a servant and lover of Jesus Christ … I have prayed for this land and its people for many years ,… for God to pour out great blessing … In my weakness, I pray daily for strength and courage to persevere and remain faithful to my King until the end. My deepest thanks to my family around the world that is standing with and praying for me.
Praying With Pastor Andrew Brunson and His Family
Below, we share with you some of the beautiful prayers our supporters offered on Open Doors’ Facebook page (click here to see all of the comments):
- “The Lord cannot be contained in a prison cell and He is with those who suffer and are persecuted for His name. God can change the hearts and minds of any person and any nation. But we must continue to pray without ceasing; expecting God to work!”
- “Father, there is nothing hard for You to do. You are able to make way to escape for Your servant Pastor Andrew Brunson. Make it possible for him to reunite with his family again. Protect him, strengthen him and let him know that You will never leave nor forsake him, in JESUS’ Name. Amen.”
- “I lift up Ps Andrew for strength and that special grace you must give to your children who are being persecuted because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. LORD, give him comfort and peace in You and I pray for his release from this prison and for him to be back with his family. I do pray that somehow he is making a difference to someone’s life in this prison and glorifying You. I also pray for his family LORD, strengthen them and give them Your gave and peace.”
- “May the Lord send His angels to minister to you every moment of the day. Abba Father please give him comfort, strength, hope, joy within and a peace that passes all human understanding.”
- “Father, we pray you supernaturally send your angels to deliver your son. God, you did it for Peter and many others and we do believe you can do it again and again because you are the same yesterday, today and forever. Trusting and thanking you Lord for your mighty plan be accomplished for your servant in Jesus Christ Holy and matchless name. Amen!
- “When Peter was imprisoned, the disciples only did one thing: they prayed without ceasing. And God sent forth his angel to release Peter. We can keep doing the same. Lord Jesus, release your servant from captivity and glorify yourself.”
Large photo: The Brunson couple featured on the couple’s Facebook page.
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