Published on: 18 March 2018
Turkish prosecutors demand a 35-year jail term for American Pastor Andrew Brunson for allegedly committing crimes for terror groups.
The 2nd High Penal Court accepted the indictment prepared by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the province of Izmir on March 17.
Brunson is accused by the court of espionage and organizational activities under the façade of missionary work while committing crimes on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and working with Fetullah Gullen, leader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) who orchestrated the defeated coup in July 2016.
Prosecutors demanded 15 years of imprisonment for “committing crimes on behalf of terror organizations without being a member,” while up to 20 years were sought for “political or military espionage,” state-run Anadolu Agency said.
“It was understood that some of the churches’ executives and priests were trying to take root in our country by establishing associations under the guise of a missionary operation. [They were] aiming to divide our country into a few pieces and give a small part to the administration of the FETÖ terror group,” said the indictment.
Andrew Brunson, 50, an American citizen who has lived in Turkey for 23 years is the pastor of Izmir Dirilis church, a small congregation in the city of Izmir, Turkey.
In April 2016, Brunson and his wife applied to renew their residence visa. He was summoned to the local police department on October 7, 2016, for what he believed to be about his visa renewal. He was taken into custody and told he will be deported within 15 days.
According to USCIRF, A lawyer who attempted to visit him was denied. When the lawyer returned with an affidavit he was told that Brunson signed a statement that waived his right to legal representation.
Brunson was held in Harmandali Detention Center where he was not allowed contact with other prisoners. Church members who tried to bring him food, clothing and water were also denied access until October 13, 2016.
On December 9, 2016, Brunson was charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” He was held in a cell with 21 inmates that was built to hold eight prisoners.
According to Anadolu Agency, a secret witness by the codename “Dua” told prosecutors that PKK members fled the country with the help of churches being run under Brunson’s supervision.
The witness said that the Bible was translated into Kurdish and Brunson held separate congregation for Kurds in the southeastern region of Turkey to convert Kurds to Christianity to instigate a separation on the belief that “Kurdistan” was about to be founded, the indictment cited the witness as saying.
In August 2017, Brunson was transferred to Kirklar Prison and placed in a cell with two other men accused of being Gulen supporters. He spends 24 hours a day in his cell, leaving only one hour a week for visitors.
Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline, had hoped her father would be released before her wedding and walk her down the aisle. Now a married woman, Jacqueline Furnari pleads her fathers case at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 9, 2018.
“My father is a peaceful pastor,” she said. “My family loves and respects the Turkish people, and my father has been dedicated to serving them for over two decades.”
“It was hard to see him so broken, so thin, so desperate when I visited him last August…Turkey should not get away with holding my father one more day” she said.
Jacqueline read to the UNHRC a letter she received from her father Andrew a week ago:
“Let it be clear I am in prison, not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am, a Christian pastor. I desperately miss my wife and children yet, I believe this to be true; it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ as many have before me.
My deepest thanks to all those around the world who are standing and praying for me.”