37 U.S. Senators and 41 Representatives Call on Turkish President to Release Imprisoned American Pastor

Letter Says Pastor Has Been Unjustly Detained, Requests Immediate Release

02/16/2017 Washington D.C., (International Christian Concern) – On Wednesday evening 78 Members of Congress, including 37 U.S. Senators, wrote to President Recep Erdoğan of Turkey requesting imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson be “immediately released and deported.”  The bi-partisan letter, which was led by the leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, argues that there is no evidence backing allegations by the Turkish government that Pastor Brunson was involved with an armed terrorist organization.

The letter comes over four months after Pastor Brunson and his wife, Norine, were arrested by Turkish authorities and accused of being involved in terrorist activities. Pastor Brunson and his wife had been working in Turkey since 1993 and led the Resurrection Church on the coastal city of Izmir.  Norine was released and cleared of charges after 12 days of detention, but on December 9th sources close to the case reported that Andrew was hastily taken to court and told he had been accused of “terrorism” by a “secret informant.” Andrew was subsequently imprisoned and has been allowed very limited access to an attorney, U.S. officials, and his family.

“We’re overjoyed to see such incredible support for Andrew from across the U.S. Congress,” said Isaac Six, International Christian Concern’s (ICC) Advocacy Director, regarding the letter. “Pastor Brunson has been held for far too long with no evidence whatsoever presented against him. It’s long past time that President Erdogan intervene in this case and immediately secure Andrew’s release. No one’s freedom should ever be taken from them simply because of the faith they profess, and I look forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress and others to highlight Andrew’s case.”

Christians in Turkey make up less than 1% of the total population and many fear that increasingly Islamist policies in the country are sparking hostility towards religious minorities. There is also speculation that Andrew’s arrest may be partially attributed to a wide-ranging crackdown on perceived opponents of the regime after a failed attempt by members of Turkey’s military to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party in August of last year. Since the coup, tens of thousands have been detained or arrested and restrictions on civil society have increased dramatically.

It’s so important that we don’t forget those who are imprisoned for their faith,” continued Isaac. “President Trump should review this letter and make it a point to raise Andrew’s case with President Erdoğan at the earliest opportunity. Turkey is a U.S. ally and this type of activity is unacceptable.”

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