US pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from Turkish prison
An American pastor, Andrew Brunson, will be released from a Turkish prison where he has been held, after a diplomatic push by president Donald Trump who is said to have played a critical role in securing his freedom.
The missionary will be under house arrest until his next court date in October. On July 18 a hearing was held and Brunson’s trial was again stayed and he was ordered back to prison.
He was arrested on December 2016. The latest move came in a plea citing “health excuses”.
Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan has used him as a political pawn in a game of geopolitics with President Trump.
“A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!” President Donald Trump tweeted just before the release announcement.
The American Center for Law and Justice, who advocates for Brunson said, “We have confirmed that the Turkish government has issued an order releasing pastor Andrew from prison and allowing him to be returned to his home in Turkey. This is a critical first step that we believe will result in the freedom of pastor Andrew so he can return to the United States and be reunited with his family.
“We have worked closely with the president on this matter and are grateful for his efforts. We look forward to the ultimate release of pastor Andrew.
“In the ACLJ’s representation of pastor Andrew’s family, we have mobilized our international resources—including ACLJ-affiliated offices in the region—seeking pastor Andrew’s freedom. The ACLJ launched a global campaign to generate awareness of pastor Andrew’s plight and called on the U.S. State Department, as well as international organizations—including the United Nations as well as NATO member countries—to demand Turkey—a NATO member—release pastor Andrew.”
The ACLJ has been advocating for the protection of Christians and other religious minorities for years. The ACLJ also has been very active in working to bring an end to the persecution of Christians taking place in many parts of the world.
On July 19, the Facebook page “Andrew & Norine Brunson” called for a three-day fast after Turkish authorities announced they were sending Brunson back to prison.
“On the positive side, the name of the Lord was absolutely glorified!!! I will post his full statements when I get them,” Norine posted after the hearing July 18. “As he explained why he was here, he gave the gospel. He publicly forgave all those who have come against him, forgiving as he has been forgiven. He said “It is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ. Blessed am I, as I suffer for him. Blessed am I, as I am slandered. Blessed am I, as I am being lied about. Blessed am I, as I am imprisoned. Blessed am I, as I share his suffering.” I am incredibly proud of him as I am quite sure he doesn’t feel that blessing at this point. There have been many prayers for the legal side of things, but let’s just pray for a miraculous release.”
Though house arrest is a step in the right direction, some international advocates argue it is not enough.
Brunson was charged with committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member,” in reference to outlawed Kurdish militants and the network of a U.S-based Muslim cleric blamed for a failed coup attempt. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison, or the equivalent of a life sentence.