Your father, your husband, your son, your brother is arrested in a foreign country for a crime he did not commit. Nearly a year passes with no trial but mounting accusations that if he were convicted would result in multiple life sentences. Now consider the country where he is being held is a NATO ally. We’re talking about U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson and we’re talking Turkey.
October 7 will mark 365 days since Christian missionary, Presbyterian minister, American citizen, Andrew Brunson was arrested in Turkey and charged with playing some nefarious role in the failed coup in mid-July 2016. Efforts to gain his release have, to this point, failed and recent statements by Turkey’s President Erdogan confirm Andrew Brunson’s case is less about Andrew Brunson and more about Turkey’s attempt to use hostage diplomacy akin to Iran and North Korea.
This means one of our allies is seeking to use an American citizen as a bargaining chip to extract something from the US government. Brunson is a US example but there are many others. Citizens from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Britain have also been unjustly detained, arrested, imprisoned and abused by NATO ally, Turkey. Humanitarians workers from Amnesty International were detained as well. The U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings to U.S. citizens.
Let the reality of all that sink in for a moment as you consider an American minister is being held hostage by a NATO ally. Andrew Brunson served without incident as a missionary for two decades in Turkey. Yet under the new Erdogan regime, he was detained, arrested, mistreated, denied consular access, and has still not be allowed to face his accusers. This is not how nations with bi-lateral agreements treat one another’s citizens. But it is how Turkey is treating our fellow American.
Geo-politically, ideologically and strategically, Turkey is leaning away from NATO and into Russia. On September 12, the nation signed a high-profile deal to purchase a Russian-made missile system. The New York Times notes Erdogan timed the announcement of the missile deal with “two judicial cases announced last week in the United States. One is against his presidential bodyguards, who are charged with assaulting protesters when Mr. Erdogan visited Washington this year. The other is against a group of Turks, including a former minister, accused of breaking United States sanctions against Iran.”
Although Turkey’s President recently said they want to swap Andrew Brunson for a Muslim Cleric living in Pennsylvania, it seems the person Turkey really wants to keep from testifying publicly in the United States is Reza Zarrab.
Reza Zarrab is a former economic minister from Turkey, standing trial in the U.S. over Iran sanctions. It’s a complicated case but during the trial it is anticipated that lots of dirty diplomatic laundry will be aired out. Complicating matters, former New York Mayor, Fox News contributor and Trump White House advisor, Rudy Guiliani, is in the mix.
Just last week, when President Erdogan was in New York for a meeting of the United Nations, pro-democracy protestors were beaten as they sought to exercise their constitutional right to free speech. Yes, in New York.
All of this international intrigue can lead one to lose focus on the primary person at issue: Andrew Brunson. As we approach the one year anniversary of his unjust detainment, arrest, and treatment, we need to shine a light of exposure on a NATO ally who has gone rogue.
What can you do?
- Join pastor Brunson’s home congregation in Montreat, N.C. for a weekend of prayer and fasting on the 1 year anniversary of his detention. Pray for his unconditional release and safe return to the United States.
Spread the word:
- Use your social media platforms to raise awareness about this #ForgottonAmericanInTurkey #PastorAndrew
- Call your members of Congress and raise the alarm about this case. Note Andrew Brunson’s case is indicative of Turkey’s leaning away from NATO and toward Russia, North Korea and Iran. Find your Senator
- Communicate your personal concern to USCIRF (U.S. Council on International Religious Freedom) to increase attention and efforts related to Turkey’s human rights and religious liberty violations, including the case of Pastor Brunson. 202-523-3240