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Turkey refuses to allow expelled North American Christian evangelist to reenter the country

Following soon after its freeing of unjustly imprisoned American Protestant Pastor Andrew Brunson comes this: the Turkish government’s refusal to allow another Protestant evangelist, David Byle, to reenter the country after expelling him. Turkey’s treatment of Byle is no surprise: the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s 2018 Annual Report includes Turkey among its Tier 2 violators — that is, countries where religious freedom violations are systematic, ongoing, and/or egregious.

The USCIRF’s 2018 Annual Report on Turkey notes that “in 2017, the state of religious freedom in Turkey worsened.” Among the signs of this deterioration, the report states, is the fact that most of Turkey’s “longstanding religious freedom concerns remain unresolved, including the return of expropriated minority properties, the delay in providing dual citizenship to Greek Orthodox Metropolitans so they can participate in the church’s Holy Synod, and equal funding for religious minority community buildings from the public budget.”

The ongoing plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is another indication of why the USCIRF has classified Turkey among its violators of religious freedom.

“Turkey refuses entry to N. American Christian evangelist,” World Watch Monitor, November 26, 2018:

Turkish immigration authorities refused to permit Canadian-American Christian David Byle to enter Turkey when he returned to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport last week.

After living and ministering in Turkey for the past 19 years, the 49-year-old evangelist was told by police officials on his arrival Nov. 20 that a permanent re-entry ban had been filed against him, forbidding him to ever return to the country.

Byle had flown back to the US on 25 October, complying with a 15-day deadline from Turkish authorities to leave the country after he was interrogated in mid-October during a routine ID check at the Ankara train station.  At the time, he had been told by his police interrogators in Ankara that he would not be banned from returning to Turkey if he paid his required over-stay fine when he left.

But when he returned last week via Germany to join his wife and children in Istanbul, he was informed at passport control that he could not enter; instead, he would be held in custody until he could be deported on the next Turkish Airlines flight back to Stuttgart, his last port of departure.

While in airport detention, Byle was given no Turkish court order or official decree in writing confirming the reported permanent re-entry ban against him. But when Byle arrived in Stuttgart, German immigration officials were presented with a formal rejection notice from the office of the Istanbul Governor, specifying that Byle was refused admission into Turkey because of an entry ban against him.

Under deportation regulations, Byle was allowed no visits by his family, lawyer or embassy officials while awaiting deportation over the next two days. But “unlike my other times,” Byle said, he was allowed to keep and use his mobile phone throughout his detention-center stay.

Over the past decade, Byle had been the target of several police arrests, brief detentions and related court cases linked to his active involvement in various Turkish church groups and Christian ministries. Although Byle was acquitted on all charges, the Interior Ministry refused for more than two years to renew his residence visa, giving no explanation….

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