American Christian Andrew Brunson Imprisoned by Turkish Authorities
Turkish Officials Ignore Calls from Congress and State Department; Formally Imprison
Andrew after 63 Days of Detention without Charge
12/14/2016 Turkey – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Andrew Brunson, a Christian leader of a Protestant church in Izmir, Turkey, was imprisoned by Turkish officials on Friday after 63 days of detention. While details remain scarce, ICC sources say that Andrew has now been transferred from the Harmandali Detention Center to the Sakran 3 Nolu T Tipi Prison near Izmir, despite quiet efforts by the US State Department and Members of Congress to negotiate his release over the past several weeks.
Andrew and his wife, Norine, were originally detained by Turkish authorities on October 7 after being summoned to report to police for what they believed would be a discussion of their application to renew their resident visas. Instead, the couple was immediately arrested by Turkish police. Norine was released after 13 days of detention on October 19. Andrew has been charged with having links to terrorist organizations, an increasingly common accusation in Turkey against any individual or group that the government is looking to target.
Over the course of more than two months of detention, Turkish officials consistently refused to allow Andrew to speak with a lawyer and have permitted US consular officials to meet with Andrew on only one occasion, despite repeated requests and a formal diplomatic note by the United States. According to ICC sources, Turkish authorities are refusing to allow Andrew any visitors at the Sakran Prison.
Andrew and Norine have been residents of Turkey for the past 20 years and were leaders of the Izmir Resurrection Church. Christians in Turkey, who number approximately 100,000 in a country of 80 million, have faced growing levels of hostility for more than a decade.
In 2007, a German and two Turkish Christians were tortured and murdered by Islamic radicals in the city of Malatya. In 2012, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the State Department designate Turkey as a “Country of Particular Concern” for “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” Crackdowns on religious minorities have continued and intensified since the coup attempt against President Recep Erdogan’s government earlier this year. More than 100,000 civil servants, from teachers, to lawyers, to judges, have been fired or jailed by President Erdogan since the coup.
Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, stated, “Andrew Brunson’s detention and imprisonment is highly alarming. Andrew has dedicated more than two decades of his life to serving the people of Turkey, and we believe he has been targeted not on the basis of any wrongdoing, but because he is a Christian engaged in Christian ministry. We call on officials in Ankara to release Andrew immediately and to ensure that all religious minorities in Turkey are protected from undue prosecution or persecution by anyone, including the Turkish government, on the basis of their faith.”
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