By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
July 19, 2018
IZMIR, TURKEY – Wednesday, a Turkish Court refused to release from custody, Andrew Brunson (50), the Presbyterian Pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, who has been unjustly imprisoned on charges of espionage and terrorism. The Second High Penal Court ruled it would continue Brunson’s case and hear more testimony at a hearing scheduled for October 12th. If Brunson is convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison.
In a press release, North Carolina U.S. Senator, Thom Tillis (R), along with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) from New Hampshire, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford (R), and Lindsey Graham (R) from South Carolina, said:
“Pastor Andrew Brunson has languished in a Turkish prison for the last two years, causing tremendous hardship and heartache for him and his family. He is an innocent man and has been unlawfully detained simply because he is an American pastor who assists all those in need, no matter their ethnicity or religious beliefs. Turkey and the United States are long-standing NATO allies, and it is imperative to the interests of both nations that Turkey starts behaving like one. We call for the immediate release of Pastor Brunson and other American citizens currently detained in Turkey, including Serkan Golge. We encourage the administration to use all the tools at their disposal to ensure the release of these innocent people before Congress is forced to press for even stricter legislative measures that will be difficult to unwind.”
Note: Serkan Golge is a Turkish-American who has dual citizenship and was a research assistant for NASA in Houston, Texas. Golge had been studying the effects of radiation on astronauts, when, like Brunson, he was swept up in the crackdown that followed the attempted coup of President Erdogan’s administration in 2016. Golge’s wife says the allegations against her husband were false and stem from a distant relative who was upset over an inheritance dispute. Golge was accused of being a spy and supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic Cleric accused of masterminding the coup attempt. Golge has been sentenced to 7.5 years.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that he was “sorely disappointed by the news.”
“I had hoped and prayed that Wednesday would be the day he would be released. There had been some indications this could be the case, but obviously not,” said Dr. Creech.
Dr. Creech added, “Through my pastoral career and ministry in the field of politics I’ve suffered painful and unjust treatment before. I have a few hair-raising stories. And I think there is a sense in which every Christian who is faithful to the cause of Christ can expect some degree of persecution. This is what the Scriptures teach. But when I think of our brother and fellow North Carolinian, Pastor Brunson, separated from his family, separated from the people who love him, wasting away in an overcrowded prison cell among the many Muslims housed with him who despise him for his trust in Christ, I realize any suffering I’ve endured for Christ’s pales in comparison. It begs the question: Am I really willing to go to the Cross for Christ’s sake? Brunson is demonstrating the terms for a genuine Christ follower.”
The Associated Press reported that during the hearing on Wednesday, Brunson rejected the testimony of the witnesses against him and said, “I forgive those who lie and bear false witness against me.”
Numerous steps have been taken by officials from the United States government to secure Brunson’s release. Senator Tillis directed a bipartisan letter to President Erdogan which was signed by 71 Senators calling for the pastor’s release. Tillis has visited Turkey twice, including meeting with Brunson and attending his trial back in April. Senators Shaheen and Graham visited Turkey earlier this month and met with Brunson. The two Senators also met with President Erdogan and pressed for Brunson’s release.
Even President Trump has called for Brunson to be set free.
In response to Turkey’s actions, Senators Tillis and Shaheen secured a provision in the Senate FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove Turkey from participation in the F-35 Fighter Jet program.
On the state level, Dr. Creech shepherded a Resolution through the North Carolina House and a Senatorial Statement through the North Carolina Senate urging Brunson’s release. Dr. Creech has also contended that state lawmakers ought to urge the state’s Treasurer to review our state government’s economic relationship with Turkey and make recommendations as may be appropriate to the circumstances.
Following the hearing Philip Kosnett, U.S. charge d’affaires in Turkey, told Hurriyet Daily News, “I’ve read the indictment, I’ve attended three hearings. I don’t believe that there is any indication that Pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity. Our government remains deeply concerned about his status, as well as the status of other American citizens and Turkish local employees of the U.S. diplomatic mission who have been detained under emergency rules. We have great respect both for Turkey’s traditional law as a haven for people of all faiths and for Turkey’s legal traditions. And we believe that this case is out of step with those traditions.”
Brunson was pastor of a small evangelical congregation, Izmir Resurrection Church. He has served as a missionary in that country for nearly 25 years.
Dr. Creech said that he urges Christian Action League supporters, as well as believers everywhere in the Tar Heel state, to press on in their prayers for Brunson’s family and his release. “Somehow, I guarantee you this situation will work for the spread of the Gospel in Turkey, and perhaps in other ways around the world,” he said.