Andrew Brunson has been wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey since October of 2016. He has been presented twice to a Turkish judge, on April 16th, 2018 and on May 7th, 2018. The trial has been delayed without any reasonable justification and the proceedings have been pushed off until July 18th, 2018.
According to the 62-page indictment, Pastor Brunson would have contributed to the preparation of the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, in coordination with the Gülen movement and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). These charges mainly rely on “anonymous witnesses” and on “secret documents”. Pastor Brunson is also accused of “dividing and separating [Turkey], by means of Christianization.” He would have been acting as “an agent of unconventional warfare” under the “mask of an evangelical church pastor.” The indictment associate “Christianization” with terrorism and considers that the Christian faith endangers Turkey’s unity. According to one “anonymous witness”, Protestants believe that President Erdoğan is the antichrist and that American Protestants are “counting on being forerunners in the war to come…”. He further states that the war will be initiated by Israel, and that Protestants believe that “all humans are slaves of the sons of Israel and Protestants.”
The description of Pastor Brunson as a terrorist could not be further from the facts. Indeed, he has lived peacefully in Turkey together with his wife and three children for 23 years. Andrew Brunson was serving openly as pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, all without any incident with authorities. As a religious leader, Andrew Brunson specially worked to keep political activities away from himself and his church. Of course, he shared his faith with the population as any other religious leaders, which is part of his religious freedom. The incrimination for “Christianization” in a State party to the Council of Europe cannot be justified in any way and is very worrying.
In fact, the charges against Pastor Brunson are based on a conspiracy theory who wants the population to believe that all the political opponents plot hand in hand against Mr. Erdoğan. In this regard, the indictment states that Andrew Brunson, the Gülen movement and the PKK “misuse persons' religious beliefs and try to create a synergy that poses a threat to their own government.” At the same time, the Turkish prosecutor acknowledges that Pastor Brunson is not a member of these movements and that no direct connection is established between him and the 2016 coup d'état attempt. The allegations of the prosecutor are thus not based on any established facts.
Moreover, Pastor Brunson is used as a bargaining chip by President Erdoğan, especially as the case gained public attention. President of the United States Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have requested Andrew Brunson’s release on several occasions. In response to this call, President Erdoğan demanded to swap Pastor Brunson for Fethullah Gülen. This offer proves that Andrew Brunson is not only a religious prisoner, but also a political prisoner.
On February 7th, 2018, the European Parliament voted a resolution “[urging] the Turkish Government to release Pastor Andrew Brunson and to allow him to return home” (2018/2527(RSP)). On March 9th, 2018, his case was brought before the United Nations bodies in Geneva. Pastor Brunson’s daughter also shared her personal testimony before the Human Rights Council. On April 20th, two-thirds of the U.S. Senators have addressed a bipartisan letter to President Erdoğan “in the hope that justice would be done and Pastor Brunson would be reunited with his family.” A petition for his release gathered over half a million signatures. 24 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe already signed a written declaration (No. 651, Doc. 14492).
On July 5th, 2018, in anticipation to Pastor Brunson's third day of trial, 98 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), from all political groups and 21 countries, sent an open letter to remind President Erdoğan of “the European and International commitments of the Republic of Turkey in regard to freedom of religion, to the prohibition of arbitrary detention, and to the right to a fair trial.” They especially protest “against the fact that Pastor Brunson had to wait almost a year and half before being indicted” and against “the fact that the indictment associates “Christianization” with terrorism, considering the Christian faith as endangering Turkey’s unity, while Christianity has been peacefully present in this land long before the actual Republic of Turkey.”
Our international efforts have already paid off. As a result of our direct requests, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has agreed to take on his case. This is a big development for Pastor Andrew as the Working Group only accepts a limited number of cases each year.
We will keep you informed of the next development in the case of Andrew Brunson.