Turkey: Pastor Andrew Brunson Released and on his way home to US

“This is the day our family has been praying for, I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States,” Pastor Brunson said in a statement to the press.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

Christians in Turkey are rejoicing at the release of Andrew Brunson from prison and the lifting of travel restrictions to allow his return to the United States.

On 12 October Andrew attended the fourth hearing at a court in Aliaga, Izmir, in a trial in which he was accused of charges relating to terrorism and espionage. Despite several witnesses changing their previous testimony against him, Andrew was sentenced to five years in prison for intentionally aiding terrorist organisations, but this was reduced to three years and one month in prison, with the final year suspended. As he has been imprisoned since October 2016 he is now free and may leave Turkey if he wishes.

Andrew’s lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, will appeal the prison sentence.

Andrew’s detention had been one of a number of problems in US-Turkey relations and the US had appealed multiple times for Andrew’s release. In response to Andrew’s case, the United States imposed sanctions against Turkey which had a serious impact on the Turkish economy.

The indictment against Andrew was based on “evidence” supplied by secret witnesses, accusing him of links to the FETO organisation (blamed for a 2016 coup attempt) and to the PKK – a Kurdish insurgent organisation. The prosecutor had asked for a prison sentence of thirty-five years, reducing that request to 10 years at the 12 October hearing.

Prayer Points

Christians in Turkey praise God for Andrew’s release and request prayer that:

the Lord will continue to strengthen Andrew as he recovers from this ordeal
he will soon be reunited with his family

Christians in Turkey would not be intimidated by this case but would maintain a clear witness

Source: Middle East Concern

‘Pressure was too much’

By Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey Correspondent

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always insisted that he could not meddle with Turkey’s judicial independence and that only the courts would decide Pastor Brunson’s fate. But the World Economic Forum places Turkey 103rd of 137 countries in the independent judiciary rankings and Turkey-watchers knew it would always come down to a political decision.

In the end, pressure from Washington on Ankara was too much. Sanctions, trade tariffs and the threat of more had led US-Turkey relations to nosedive – and with them, the Turkish lira. Facing spiralling inflation, a 40% drop in the value of the currency and the start of an economic crisis, Turkey had to act to normalise relations with the US. Mr Brunson was the key.

Andrew Brunson had the American government behind him. Deniz Yucel, the former correspondent of Die Welt, who was imprisoned and then finally freed in Turkey, had the German government supporting him. Tens of thousands of others here who claim wrongful imprisonment don’t have the backing of a powerful state to resist what they say is Turkey’s politicised judiciary.