The family of a U.S. pastor imprisoned in Turkey has spoken out, asking for his immediate release.
Andrew Brunson, 48, pastor of a Protestant church in Izmir, was locked up Friday by the Turkish government. They have accused him of having ties to an American-based cleric, Fetullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for a July coup attempt.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Brunson’s family said that, “if convicted, Brunson may face years in prison based on extremely serious – and false – charges.”
After several weeks of silence, the family called the charges against Brunson “unfounded” and “shocking” and demanded his immediate release.
“Andrew’s strong faith has always been at the center of his life and that has never been more evident than his pastor ship in Turkey,” his family said in a statement. “His love and concern for the people of Turkey is unmistakable, as he has dedicated 23 years of his life serving them.”
As Turkey is cracking down on Christians in the country, Brunson was called to the local police station in Izmir on October 7th. According to the family, Brunson, a U.S. citizen, thought he would be receiving his long-awaited permanent residence card. Instead, Brunson was told he was being deported because he was a “threat to national security.”
After arresting Brunson, officials confiscated personal items, including his phone, and denied him access to a Bible. They also prevented him from talking to an attorney.
On Friday, after 63 days in captivity, with periods of time in isolation, Brunson was transported to a counter-terrorism center in Izmir. Police questioned and charged him with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” Shortly after, a judge ordered Brunson to be imprisoned instead of deported.
Lawyers for the ACLJ stated that the charging documents include no evidence to support the claims that Brunson broke any law, according to FoxNews.com.
The family said the U.S. State Department and a member of Congress have been quietly negotiating his release over the last several weeks.
If convicted of such terrorism charges, Brunson could face years of imprisonment.
Pastor Brunson and his wife run a Christian church in Turkey where they have resided for 23 years.
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