Christians in Turkey request further prayer for Andrew Brunson, the American pastor imprisoned in Turkey since October 2016, as he prepares for his next court hearing on 7 May.
Andrew faces charges related to terrorism and espionage that could result in a total prison sentence of 35 years. His first hearing was on 16 April.
Prior to the first hearing, Andrew had been transferred to a different penal facility and held in solitary confinement. He found this very disturbing, but still managed to read out his response to the allegations brought against him in a 62-page indictment, taking six hours to do so.
Andrew reiterated that he is a servant of God, and that his motive in coming to Turkey was to preach Jesus Christ and raise disciples. He emphasised that he loved Turkey, has been praying for the country for 25 years and has done nothing wrong. He rejected all the claims that have been made against him of links to Fetullah Gulen’s organisation and the Kurdish separatist movement (PKK), and of espionage against the Turkish state.
It had been hoped that the presiding judge would allow Andrew to be released, but at the end of the hearing, which lasted more than twelve hours, he ruled that Andrew was to be returned to prison.
The case against Andrew relies heavily on the testimony of witnesses, whose identities have been kept confidential. The next hearing, scheduled for 7 May, will focus on these testimonies and the outrageous and generally nonsensical allegations that have been made.
Andrew’s continued detention is deepening a political rift between Ankara and Washington. On 17 April, President Trump tweeted: “Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”
The first hearing was attended in person by the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, and a Senator from Andrew’s home state of North Carolina. On 20 April a bipartisan group of 66 US senators sent a letter to President Erdogan asking for Andrew’s immediate release. On 22 April President Erdogan responded in an interview on television news channel NTV, linking Andrew’s release with the extradition of Fetullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric blamed for the 2016 attempted coup. The president said, “If you want Brunson, look at the steps you have taken in the past. Why don’t you deport this man (Fetullah Gulen) in accordance with the extradition treaty?”
Turkish Christians request prayer that:
- the Lord will strengthen Andrew, and that he and his family will know God’s peace and presence
- the preparations for Andrew’s defence will proceed well and that the lawyer will have wisdom in his approach
- that as the false testimony of the witnesses is examined, the truth will be very apparent
- the Turkish court will uphold justice and reject the allegations of Andrew’s involvement in outlawed terrorist or political groups and military espionage
- President Erdogan will not abuse Andrew’s rights by using him as a bargaining chip for the extradition of Fetullah Gulen
- Andrew will be released soon and that those responsible for his imprisonment will repent of their actions.