The health of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson has deteriorated during his imprisonment in Turkey, says U.S. Senator Thom Tillis from Brunson’s home state of North Carolina. The senator recently visited with Pastor Brunson inside Buca Prison in Turkey.
“Pastor Brunson is strengthened by his love for his family and his faith in God, but his health has deteriorated,” Tillis said in a statement following his visit. “He has lost 50 pounds and spends 24 hours a day in a cell with limited human contact.”
Tillis said that Pastor Brunson is trying to visit a doctor this week, which would require him to be transferred with several guards while he is handcuffed.
‘The Victim of False Accusations’
The Senator’s visit comes just a few days before Brunson’s trial is scheduled to start next Monday, April 16 in a court in Izmir where he is being held. On March 16, Turkish prosecutors filled official charges against Pastor Brunson and called for a 35-year prison sentence for the 50-year-old pastor.
In October 2016, Brunson, who pastored a church in Turkey for the past 23 years, was accused and jailed on false charges of espionage and terrorism.
“He fears the possibility that the American government accepts the indictment and forgets about him, which we will not allow to happen,” Tillis reported. “There should be no mistake that Pastor Brunson is the victim of false accusations, and we call upon the Turkish authorities to honestly and transparently review his indictment.”
Tillis went on to say that Pastor Brunson is being used as a political pawn by “some elements of the Turkish government.”
“These elements seek to undercut the longstanding partnership between the United States and Turkey, in which our two nations have enjoyed close diplomatic, economic, and military ties,” he explained.
On April 4, Sen. Tillis tweeted:
Pastor Andrew Brunson is a victim of false accusations, and we call upon the Turkish authorities to honestly and transparently review his indictment. He has been imprisoned on false charges for 544 days. #FreePastorBrunson https://t.co/Uv5Y8TNpVz
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) April 4, 2018
Soner Tufan, spokesperson for the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, told World Watch Monitor that Brunson’s indictment is an “eclipse of reason.”
“To claim that Andrew was an FETO executive and sought to destroy this country is like an insult and offense to reason,” Tufan said. “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?”
Tillis, who was elected to the Senate in 2014 while serving as speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, has worked with the State Department to push for Brunson’s release.
He has also led a Congressional committee in addressing the imprisonment of Brunson and other U.S. citizens in Turkey.
“I would also note the continued detention of multiple other U.S. citizens, as well as several Turkish staff of the U.S. Diplomatic Mission, on scant evidence under the state of emergency, which continues to undermine the partnership between our two countries,” Tillis continued. “It is time for Pastor Brunson and these individuals to be reunited with their families. We look forward to Pastor Brunson’s return home to America.”
Father, we pray with Pastor Andrew and his family for his physical and emotional healing as he waits for his trial to begin. We pray that he would get the necessary medical care and that he would be allowed more visits with family, friends and others who will encourage and remind him he has not been forgotten. God, we pray for Senator Tillis and ask that You would give him both insight and courage to work effectively for Andrew’s release and safe return to his family.