Category Archives: Andrew Brunson

President Trump tweets support for Andrew Brunson, warns Turkey of consequences for continued imprisonment


TrumpTweet20180417.jpgAs international media continue to issue reports of Andrew Brunson’s trial in Turkey on April 16, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the EPC Teaching Elder. The President’s message on social media, which was delivered on April 17, reads:

“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!”

On April 18, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration warned Turkey that it is considering punitive “consequences” if Brunson is not freed.

Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, said the State Department is consulting with Congress about “possible measures” if Brunson is not acquitted or released.

AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

Brunson is being tried on charges that he aided terror groups and committed espionage against Turkey, where he has lived since 1993. At the time of his arrest in October 2016, he had been serving as Pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church since he planted the congregation in 2010.

 

In an 30-minute video interview available on the Christian Broadcasting Network website, Aykan Erdemir—a former member of the Turkish parliament and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.—said Brunson’s 18-month, pre-trial imprisonment “has become a sort of torture.”

“Right after the noon break when he came back and was defending himself, he had a mental breakdown. He sat down; it’s reported that he started crying and he told the judge how difficult it is to survive in this kind of isolation chamber,” Erdemir said.

Following more than 12 hours of testimony, the judge adjourned the hearing until May 7 and ordered Brunson returned to prison. The Wall Street Journal reported that as he was being escorted from the courtroom, Brunson turned to his wife and said, “I am going crazy here, I love you.”

Brunson was sent to the facility where he was held from December 2016 through August 2017, which is notorious for its overcrowding. As many as 22 inmates are held in cells designed for eight prisoners.

Brunson’s trial has garnered media coverage internationally, with outlets in such locations as Japan, Nigeria, and Singapore reporting on the situation.

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah encouraged people to share media reports of the trial among their social media networks.

“I want to keep Andrew’s situation in the public eye as much as possible,” Jeremiah said. “The entire world needs to know about Andrew, and both pray to the Lord and advocate to their leaders on Andrew’s behalf.”

Andrew Brunson returned to custody following opening arguments


AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

Following more than 10 hours of testimony on April 16, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson was returned to prison as the judge delayed further hearings until May 7.

“I am very disappointed that Andrew was not released today,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “I just can’t imagine how discouraged Andrew and Norine are right now.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Andrew defended himself for five hours against the charges in the indictment.

“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” Brunson said in fluent Turkish. “I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out.”

Following the close of proceedings on April 16, Bloomberg reported an apparent connection between the May 7 date and the scheduled sentencing of a Turkish banker convicted in January 2018 of taking part in a billion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions against Iran. The banker—Mehmet Hakan Attila—was deputy general manager for international banking at a Turkish state bank. On April 9, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman rescheduled Attila’s sentencing from April 11 to May 7.

“We will continue to cry to God in prayer for our brother in Christ,” Jeremiah added. “As Andrew’s trial has drawn the attention of the U.S. and global media, we need to do all we can to keep the world’s attention on Andrew and his unjust imprisonment.”

Andrew Brunson denies charges as trial begins in Turkey


AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

Speaking at the beginning of his trial on April 16, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson denied accusations that he aided terror groups or spied against Turkey. The trial convened at 9:00 a.m. local time (2:00 a.m. EDT) in Aliaga, Turkey. Aliaga is about 40 miles north of Izmir, where Brunson served as pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church at the time of his arrest in October 2016.

“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” Brunson said in fluent Turkish. “I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity. I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” He also said, “I’ve never done something against Turkey. I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Brunson’s defense statement lasted five hours, “during which he at times appeared overwhelmed by emotion and wept.”

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Sam Brownback, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State, were in the courtroom. During a recess in the proceedings, Brownback, who also is a former senator and governor of Kansas, told reporters that the United States cares deeply about its relationship with Turkey, and “that relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”

As of 1:00 p.m. April 16, EPC leaders have not been contacted by sources close to the situation, but have been monitoring international news media for reports from the trial. Among the many media outlets producing articles about the proceedings are Reuters, the Saudi Gazette, and the Washington Post.

“Please continue to pray today as the trial proceeds,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “We will provide further updates as more information is available.”

EPC issues call to prayer and fasting for April 15 ahead of Andrew Brunson trial


AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

On April 16, 2018, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson will go on trial in Izmir, Turkey. If convicted of the charges in the 62-page indictment filed by the prosecutor, Andrew could be sentenced to 35 years in prison. The indictment charges Brunson with helping terrorist organizations and of trying to convert Turks to Christianity.

In an effort to stand with and pray for the entire Brunson family, the EPC is issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for Sunday, April 15. The trial is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. local time in Turkey, which is 2:00 a.m. EDT Monday.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said Andrew’s wife, Norine, has requested three specific prayers:

  • Pray for Andrew’s release, using Psalm 18, which speaks of deliverance from the “cords of death” (v. 4-5).
  • If he is given the opportunity to speak in his defense, please claim Jesus’ promise, “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourself. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:24-15).
  • That the steadfast love of the Lord will comfort our children (Jordan, Jaqueline, and Blaise) and that He will give them peace and help them to trust.

“As we consider Norine’s steadfast faithfulness and courage, my prayer is that she not grow weary,” Jeremiah said. “I have been claiming Galatians 6:9 and Exodus 17:12 for her, and she knows that we are helping ‘hold up her arms’ for her husband.”

In addition to the April 15 Day of Prayer and Fasting, a seven-day prayer guide for the week leading up to the trial can be downloaded at www.epc.org/files/andrewbrunson7dayprayerguide.

“I encourage the Prayer Team of every EPC church to utilize this guide and lift Andrew, Norine, their family, and the trial to the throne of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Jeremiah said.

North Carolina Senator visits Andrew Brunson in Turkish prison


ThomTillis

Thom Tillis

Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announced on March 28 that he met with imprisoned EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson on Monday, March 26, at Buca Prison in Ismir, Turkey. Brunson has been held since October 7, 2016, on terrorism-related charges.

Tillis issued the following statement:

“Pastor Brunson is strengthened by his love for his family and his faith in God, but his health has deteriorated. He has lost 50 pounds and spends 24 hours a day in a cell with limited human contact.  He is attempting to visit a doctor this week, which involves him being handcuffed and transported with several armed guards. He fears the possibility that the American government accepts the indictment and forgets about him, which we will not allow to happen.

AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

“There should be no mistake that Pastor Brunson is the victim of false accusations, and we call upon the Turkish authorities to honestly and transparently review his indictment. Pastor Brunson is being used as a political pawn by some elements of the Turkish government. These elements seek to undercut the longstanding partnership between the United States and Turkey, in which our two nations have enjoyed close diplomatic, economic, and military ties. It is vital that our nations continue this partnership and continue to work together to pursue our common interests.

“I would also note the continued detention of multiple other U.S. citizens, as well as several Turkish staff of the U.S. diplomatic Mission, on scant evidence under the state of emergency, which continues to undermine the partnership between our two countries. It is time for Pastor Brunson and these individuals to be reunited with their families. We look forward to Pastor Brunson’s return home to America.”

Formal indictment filed against Andrew Brunson in Turkey


AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

A court in Turkey has accepted a 62-page indictment against EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson on terrorism-related charges. Prosecutors are asking for a 35-year prison sentence.

His trial is scheduled to begin April 16.

In a statement, Cece Heil of the American Center for Law and Justice—which is representing the Brunson family in legal and advocacy efforts—said the indictment is “wholly lacking merit” and “provides no evidence regarding criminal action by Pastor Andrew, which comes as no surprise. Incredibly, the indictment now admits that Turkey considers sharing the gospel an ‘act of terrorism.’”

Media reports indicate that the indictment charges Andrew with being an “executive” in the Gülen organization that Turkish President Erdoğan blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt. Hurriyet News, the leading state-run media outlet in Turkey, reports Andrew is charged with committing crimes on behalf of terrorist organizations. In addition, the Global News Network is reporting that the indictment claims Andrew was using his position as a Christian minister to sow discord among the population, and sought to divide the nation and award authority of the result to the Gülenists and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which launched a separatist movement in 1984 and Turkey has designated a terrorist organization. An article in WorldWatch Monitor quotes Andrew’s Turkish lawyer, and explains the challenges Andrew’s defense team faces.

“I confess that I don’t understand how this all fits into God’s plan,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Please continue to pray for Andrew and Norine in light of this development, and that somehow God would use it for His glory and Andrew’s freedom.”

Andrew Brunson’s daughter testifies to U.N. Human Rights Council; prosecutor demands 35-year prison sentence


JacquelineBrunsonUNGeneva

Jacqueline Furnari (center) implored the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 9 to help get her father, EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson, released from Turkey where he has been imprisoned since October 2016.

Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew and Norine Brunson, told members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that Turkey “should not get away with holding my father one more day” and pleaded with the U.N. to work to get her father released and returned to the United States. She spoke to the Council on March 9 in Geneva, Switzerland.

AndrewBrunsonOctober2017

Andrew Brunson

Brunson, an EPC Teaching Elder who has lived in Turkey since 1993, has been imprisoned since October 7, 2016. He is accused of participation with groups the Turkish government blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

On March 13, a Turkish prosecutor demanded a 35-year prison sentence, according to a report by the Doğan News Agency in Turkey. The prosecutor charged Brunson, 50, with being a “member and executive” of the Fetullah Gülen organization, which the government of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan blames for the coup attempt and considers a terrorist group.

Click here for more coverage of Furnari’s testimony to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

On March 13 and 14, multiple media reports in the U.S. indicated that Andrew had been officially indicted on charges that he was an “executive” with the Gülen movement. (Under the Turkish legal system, once an indictment is made the court has 15 days to return a decision on the indictment. If approved, the case will proceed and the prosecution phase will begin.)

“Norine and I have been in regular contact via encrypted email this week,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “She is so grateful for our continued prayers for her husband, and confirmed to me on Thursday, March 15, that the news reports of an indictment were inaccurate.”

Click here for a detailed report on the most recent accusations.