Today (18 July) there was a court hearing for American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey. This was the third hearing, following hearings on 16 April and 7 May. Despite hopes for Andrew’s release, the judge ordered that he remain imprisoned as the trial process continues.

Andrew faces charges related to terrorism and espionage that could result in a 35-year prison sentence.The indictment is based on “evidence” supplied by secret witnesses, accusing Andrew of links to the FETO organisation (blamed for the 2016 coup attempt) and to the PKK – a Kurdish insurgent organisation. Observers at the court hearings have commented on the fantastical nature of the claims and the miscarriage of justice in keeping Andrew detained.

According to Andrew’s lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, Andrew should have been granted conditional release as the investigation is now complete. The head judge, however, continues to refuse to acquit Andrew or grant him conditional release.

Andrew’s imprisonment continues to be a key factor in US-Turkey relations. US senators Jeanne Shaheen and Lindsey Graham visited Andrew Brunson in prison on 29 June and were afterwards received by President Erdogan and were able to appeal directly for Andrew’s release. President Trump also made mention of Andrew in a telephone call with President Erdogan on 16 July, asking the Turkish president for Andrew’s release.

President Erdogan now has sweeping new powers under a new executive presidential system following his victory in the general election on 24 June and taking the oath of office on 7 July. While the president and his supporters say his victory heralds a “new Turkey”, critics note the lack of checks and balances in the new system and fear a continuing erosion of democratic values.

A fourth hearing for Andrew’s case has been scheduled for 12 October 2018.

Prayer Points

Christians in Turkey request prayer that:

  1. the Lord will comfort Andrew, his family and friends in the face of this further disappointment
  2. Andrew will be released soon, despite the judge’s decision
  3. his legal team and those pursuing political negotiations for his release will have much wisdom, especially in the light of the “new Turkey” political context
  4. Christians in Turkey would not be intimidated but would maintain a clear witness.
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