US Commission calls for Brunson’s release

US Commission calls for Brunson’s release

IZMIR, Turkey — On the one-year anniversary of American Pastor Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment in Turkey, a bipartisan U.S. commission criticized Turkish officials and called for Brunson’s immediate release.

“The government of Turkey has fabricated charges against Pastor Brunson, largely based on purported ‘secret testimony,’” said Kristina Arriaga, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a statement Oct. 7 after visiting Brunson in Kiriklar Prison in Izmir, Turkey. “He should be released immediately.”

Brunson, who is from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has ministered to Christians in Turkey for 23 years. In 2016, Turkish officials accused Brunson of trying to overthrow its government and constitution, charges Brunson has denied. If convicted, Brunson could be sentenced to life in prison.

Arriaga visited Brunson with Sandra Jolley, also a vice chairwoman of the commission. Prior to their visit, only Brunson’s lawyer, relatives and U.S. embassy officials had seen him.

“He lives in a world of psychic and physical dislocation,” Jolley said in the statement. “Despite a public veneer of a legal process, the truth is Pastor Brunson has had no due process, no true information about the charges against him, unreliable court dates and no idea when he ever again will see his children or his country.”

During the visit Brunson thanked “everyone who is advocating and praying for me,” according to the commission’s statement. “Knowing that I am not forgotten is important to me.” (TAB)