Today (16 April) American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was originally arrested on 7 October 2016, appeared in court in Izmir, Turkey, to face charges related to terrorism and espionage that could result in a total prison sentence of 35 years.
Last week, as part of extensive security measures, Andrew was transferred from Buca Prison to Sakran T Type Closed Punishment Facility. At the hearing were the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, Senator Thom Tillis from Andrew’s home state of North Carolina, Andrew’s wife, Norine, and many international and national journalists.
The hearing began at 9:30 with Andrew agreeing to participate in Turkish without a translator. He rejected the claim in the indictment that he had Spanish and German citizenship and acknowledged that he is a US citizen. The indictment was read aloud and then Andrew was given an opportunity to respond.
Andrew stated that he is a servant of God, and his motive in coming to Turkey was to preach Jesus Christ and raise disciples. He emphasised that he loved Turkey, has been praying for the country for 25 years and has done nothing wrong. He rejected all the claims that have been made against him of links to Fetullah Gulen’s organisation, the Kurdish separatist movement (PKK) and espionage against the Turkish state.
At one point, according to journalists present, Andrew broke down and had to pause in his delivery. The president of the court asked if he wanted to stop. Andrew said that he was suffering psychologically, especially since being put in solitary confinement in Sakran T Type Closed Punishment Facility, and asked to be moved to a different cell.
Andrew’s detention is deepening a political rift between Ankara and Washington as the two governments argue over military action in Syria, Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen’s continued residence in the United States and the erosion of human rights in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Ambassador Brownback responded to the questions of journalists saying “That relationship (between the US and Turkey) is going to have difficulty in moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”
Please pray that:
- the Lord will strengthen Andrew, and that he and his family will know God’s peace and presence
- the Lord will give Andrew’s Turkish lawyer wisdom in the defence of his client
- the Turkish court will uphold justice and reject the allegations of Andrew’s involvement in outlawed terrorist or political groups
- Andrew will be released soon and that those responsible for his imprisonment will repent of their actions