Why a Turkish Newspaper Is Reporting the ‘Imminent’ Release of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson
A little over a week before the next hearing for U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, a Turkish newspaper, the Hurriyet Daily News, is reporting that “many” diplomats in Ankara expect the “imminent release and deportation” of the North Carolina pastor.
In a column for the Hurriyet, entitled “Pastor Brunson’s Detention Has Become Too Costly for Turkey,” lead Turkish commentator Serkan Demirtas suggested that the continued detention of Pastor Bunson would further complicate the situation between Turkey and the U.S.
“That is why many diplomats in Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, expect his potential release followed by his deportation, pending trial on the July 18 hearing,” he wrote. He added: “Of course, it is impossible to foresee what the court’s decision will be, but his release would sure help the ongoing reconciliation process between Turkey and the U.S.”
Phillip Kosnett, American Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey recently echoed Demirtas’ comment, saying that the country’s continued detention of pastor Andrew Brunson on spying and terrorism-related charges is impeding U.S.-Turkish relations.
Kosnett has said there is a “strong sense of unity in Congress between Republicans and Democrats” on the need for Pastor Brunson to be released and “a similar sense of unity between Congress and the administration that in order for the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. to progress, we need to resolve that status not only for Brunson but also for other American citizens and local Turkish employees of U.S. missions who we feel are detained unjustly under the state of emergency.”
An article in the Hurriyet quoted Kosnett saying that resolving those cases would improve “prospects for progress” in other areas of co-operation.
The articles ran before Erdogan’s recent blanket decree firing more than 18,000 civil servants for unspecified “links with terror groups” and the government’s increase in the number of arrests for “insulting the president.” Erdogan was recently elected to a five-year term and now has near-absolute political power.
Meeting in Turkey
Kosnett’s comments come after reports ran about the bipartisan meeting between U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jeanne Shaheen and Turkey President Erdoğan. The two leaders traveled to Turkey to lobby for the release of Pastor Brunson, whom they visited in prison in Izmir.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 30, 2018
Following their previously undisclosed trip, Shaheen told the New Hampshire Union Leader: “Pastor Brunson has been unjustly imprisoned and kept away from his family for well over one year. The opportunity to see him and his wife, Norine, and to appeal directly to President Erdogan, were my main objectives on this trip.
“Any time an American is wrongfully detained anywhere by a foreign government, it is our country’s duty to do everything we can to bring him or her home.”
The Turkish presidency did not issue a statement after the meeting.
The senators’ visit took place before Erdogan’s scheduled meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the margins of a NATO summit in Brussels.
‘Because I am a Christian Pastor’
Pastor Brunson is accused of espionage and terrorism while he led a small church in Izmir. Over the last two hearings in April and May, the prosecution has produced no credible evidence. The trial has been widely criticized as a “sham” with Pastor Brunson being used as a political pawn. Erdogan has essentially said he will trade Pastor Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric Turkey has accused of starting a coup. Erdogan has demanded Gulen, now living in Pennsylvania, to be extradited by the U.S.
But Andrew is clear that his imprisonment is Christian persecution. From his prison cell, he has written: “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.”
The 62-page indictment bears more evidence that he is a victim of persecution, with “Christianization” being called “a hostile act.” Turkey is No. 31 on the World Watch List.
If convicted, Pastor Brunson faces a life sentence of 35 years. He has vehemently denied all the charges.
“My service that I have spent my life on has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting … There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the Resurrection Church.”
Praying With the Brunsons
Please continue to pray with the Brunson family as the third hearing approaches in Izmir on July 18.
In His Word, God has shown us how to pray for the persecuted. We can find insight and practical help in the scriptures:
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
…but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32). #standingwithPastorBrunson
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