Andrew Brunson, the North Carolina pastor who has been jailed in Turkey, will go on trial next month on charges that he is a terrorist who used Christianity as a weapon to attempt a government overthrow.
According to Christian Headlines, this is what the indictment issued by a Turkish court official earlier this week against the 50-year-old pastor is claiming. And this is why the Turkish government has held him in prison for a year and a half.
Brunson is the native of a small town in western North Carolina and has lived and worked in Turkey for nearly 25 years. He faces a possible sentence of 35 years in prison if found by Turkish officials to be guilty. In particular, Turkish prosecutors are charging him with two crimes: membership in an armed terrorist organization and military espionage.
Imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson is set to stand trial before a Turkish criminal court on April 16. He is being charged with espionage and terrorism-related charges which, if he is found guilty of, could land him in jail for up to 35 years.
The Turkish government is claiming that the pastor was involved in a failed coup attempted in 2016.
The U.S. Government claims that Andrew Brunson, the pastor currently jailed, is one of several Americans who have been detained unjustly by the Turkish government. In fact, during a trip to Ankara last month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for the American citizen to be freed from jail.
This U.S pastor has been living in Turkey for a total of 23 years. Throughout his time abroad, he has been running a local church and hasn't been involved in overthrowing the Turkish government, claims his defenders.
But this isn't what Turkish authorities are claiming. Rather, they claim that he was an executive of the group that Ankara holds responsible for the failed coup. Turkey also blames the network of Fethullah Gulen, which is a U.S. based Muslim cleric who denies all involvement.
As a result, the Turkish government has claimed that it will release Brunson if the United States will hand over Gulen.
Gulen is a Turkish Muslim cleric who has lived in Pennsylvania for 20 years. Some have acknowledged him as the second most powerful man in Turkey, especially since he is the head of a large Islamic movement known as Hizmet, which promotes a tolerant version of Islamic centered around education, modesty, and altruism.
Secret witnesses claimed that Brunson was in very close contact with Gulen's network and was receiving funding from it for missionary activities. Brunson has denied these accusations, claiming that he is a mere defender of Jesus Christ and would never support an Islamic movement.
According to the Christian Post, daughter Jacqueline Brunson has recently told the United States Human Rights Council that the terror allegations against her father are absolutely "absurd." She claims that her father is innocent and that the only crime he has committed is being a Christian pastor.
Jacqueline, therefore, claims that her father, a Christian pastor and nothing more, has been wrongfully imprisoned for more than a year and a half.
"Turkey should not get away with holding my father one more day," she maintains, according to the Christian Post.
"Having grown up in Turkey, it has been hard for me to understand the situation. My family loves and respects the Turkish people, and my father has been dedicated to serving them for over two decades," she said.
"I know the allegations against my father are absurd. He is not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government, my father is a peaceful pastor. My family has suffered greatly during the past year and a half, which has been filled with tears, and countless unanswered questions."
"Let it be clear," wrote Brunson from his prison cell. "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 for all those around the world who are standing with me and praying for me.”
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