A Turkish court has sent American pastor back to jail, accusing him of espionage. Family Andrew Brunson, friends and even the President trump had hoped for his release, but after a hearing this week, their hopes were dashed.
It was the third hearing of 50-year-old pastor from North Carolina, which ended in another disappointment. After all, many expected the Andrew Brunson released from prison. He has already spent 20 months behind bars in Turkey. He is accused of espionage and organizing coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. The hearing lasted about two hours, during which former members of the Church testified against pastor Brunson, putting forward vague and unfounded accusations. When the judge asked Brunson to respond to the witnesses, he said, “My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.” Only one defense witness was allowed to testify. The U.S. government expressed concern about the court’s decision.
“I read the indictment. I attended three hearings. I don’t believe that there are some signs of the involvement of pastor Brunson to criminal or terrorist activity,” says Philip Kosnett, charge d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Turkey.
The administration trump and members of Congress pressured Turkey, demanding the release of the pastor. On Wednesday, President trump expressed his outrage on Twitter: “Utter disgrace that Turkey releases from jail of a respected pastor from the USA Andrew Brunson. Too long held hostage. Erdogan needs to do something to release this wonderful Christian man, husband and father. He did nothing wrong and my family needs”.
Sisi Haile of the American center for law and justice says that immediately after the court decision, the administration trump and members of Congress resumed work at the diplomatic level for the release of Branson.
“This is a heavy blow. I can only pray for encouragement for pastor Brunson and his family, because they suffer not less,” said Sisi hisle.
MHN: Senior international correspondent Gary lane with us now. Gary, in recent years you spent a lot of time in Turkey. Why they refuse to release pastor Brunson?
Gary lane, senior international correspondent for “CBN-News”:
All hoped that he would be released, right? But for Turkey, it is a bargaining chip. It has a great value, and the administration, trump said, we refuse to let go of a man who, in your opinion, participated in the attempted coup against President Erdogan. His name is Fethullah Gulen and he lives in Pennsylvania. We are not going to extradite him to Turkey because we believe that they would kill him or give him a long prison sentence. We believe that he is innocent, but obviously, Erdogan has a different opinion. He wants Gulen extradited to Turkey and so keep Branson as a bargaining chip. So the pastor is still very valuable, and it is not surprising that he’s being held in jail.
MHN: What can the President of the trump in the US? Is it possible to somehow influence, to put pressure on Erdogan?
The United States and said if the pastor soon will not be released, against Turkey are likely to be sanctioned. And that should help, because it’s the last thing Erdogan wants. He is trying to strengthen the economy of Turkey, so will not want to put economic sanctions on his country.
MHN: What will be his next move? What’s next?
I think if in the near future, Branson is not released, will be held on the next hearing, scheduled for mid-October. But, you know, all those meetings show. Against him no evidence. Defence witnesses not allowed to testify. What kind of trial is this? It’s just a show, it’s not fair. Against the pastor really no evidence. And we, as Christians, need to pray for his release. And encouragement to not be discouraged.
We must also pray for the family of Branson, because for them it was a huge disappointment that he was not released.