NC Missionary Jailed in Turkey Gets Horrible News, US Senator Present When It Happened


It’s a modern martyrdom in the making.

An American missionary who has been held behind bars in Turkey for 18 months on “terrorism” charges has been transferred to a notoriously overcrowded prison after his trial was pushed back this week to the beginning of May.

And supporters of North Carolina native Andrew Brunson — including United States senators from both parties — say the pastor is being used as a “political pawn” in Turkey’s dealings with the United States.

Brunson, 50, had led a Protestant church in southwestern Turkey for more than 20 years when he was swept up in October 2016 by a Turkish government still reacting to a failed coup attempt in the country two months earlier, according to NBC.

His trial on charges of terrorism and espionage started on Monday, but will not resume until May 7, according to the international missionary group World Witness. It lasted just long enough for some testimony, and for Brunson to get the news that he was going to be held in a prison “known for its poor conditions,” World Witness reported.

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The Monday hearing was a “kangaroo court,” North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis told the Raleigh News & Observer after flying to Turkey to witness the proceedings along with Sam Brownback, the former Kansas governor and senator who is now a United States ambassador-at-large for religious freedom.

There was no judge, Tillis told the newspaper. Witnesses’ faces and voices were disguised.

“Not fair at all,” Tillis said.

Still, Brunson did get a chance to speak in his own defense. And his words should stir the conscience of even Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a budding Islamist-supremacist who blames the United States for sheltering a man he believes was behind the coup attempt.

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“I am a Christian pastor,” Brunson said, according to World Witness. “I’ve never done anything against Turkey. I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years.”

Senior American officials — including the White House and the Senate — are paying close attention to the case.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump published a Twitter post calling for Brunson’s release.

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence, a man known for his devout Christian faith, followed suit:

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And according to NBC, 66 senators have written to the Turkish government threatening consequences if the Turkish government follows through on the case against Brunson, which the letter described as “an absurd collection of anonymous accusations, flights of fantasy, and random character assassination.”

In September, according to NBC, Erdogan “hinted” that the clergyman could be freed in Turkey if the United States extradited an Islamic clergyman named Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan’s government believes Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, was behind the coup attempt.

Reuters and other media outlets have reported that the U.S. Justice Department doesn’t think there is enough evidence against Gulen to warrant extradition.

So Brunson is trapped in the Turkish prison system, a “political pawn by elements of the Turkish government bent on destroying the longstanding partnership between two great nations,” as the senators’ letter described him.

Facing 35 years in prison on what are, by all accounts, trumped up charges of terrorism and espionage, the rest of his life is literally in the balance.

And a martyrdom could be in the making.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.