A Christian pastor from Black Mountain has been imprisoned in Turkey on false terrorism charges, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, a not-for-profit religious corporation based in Washington, D.C.
Turkey imprisoned Andrew Brunson, 48, without any evidence, the center said in a statement this week. “He has been a Christian pastor in Turkey for the past 23 years.”
The center is representing Brunson’s family in a bid to free him and said he faces “grave danger” simply because of his religious beliefs.
“The government of Turkey – led by an Islamic party – has begun increased crackdowns on Christians, and Pastor Andrew, if convicted, may face years in prison based on extremely serious – and false – charges,” the center’s statement said. “We are launching a global campaign to call attention to his plight demanding that Turkey – a NATO member – release Pastor Andrew without delay.”
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According to the center, Brunson was summoned to the local police station in Izmir, Turkey, on the morning of Oct. 7. He believed he would receive a long-awaited permanent residence card. Instead, Brunson was told he was being deported based on being a “threat to national security,” which the center said is a common excuse for deportation in Turkey.
“It became clear that he was being arrested and would be detained until deportation,” center officials said. “He was fingerprinted, searched and had his phone, pen, etc. taken away. He was denied a Bible. But instead of being deported, he was held with no charges for 63 days, during which time he was denied access to his Turkish attorney. He was placed in solitary confinement for part of this time, with his glasses and watch confiscated.”
In the middle of the night last Thursday, Brunson was taken to a counter-terrorism center in Izmir and then to court, where the center said he was questioned and falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
The charging documents state no “evidence has been gathered” against him, the center reported. A Turkish judge had the option to deport him, release him on weekly sign-ins at the local police station or imprison him, according to the center. The judge chose to keep him in prison.
The center said it has mobilized its international offices, working with the U.S. State Department to free Brunson.
“As we approach Christmas – a season of hope and promise – we know that people around the world will stand with Pastor Andrew – will be Pastor Andrew’s voice – supporting his fight for freedom and will join us in urging Turkey to release him immediately,” the center’s statement said .
Brunson’s Turkish attorney planned to file an appeal this week.
As of Thursday night, the center had gathered over 35,000 signatures on an online petition for Brunson’s release.