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US Senators Graham and Shaheen meet with Turkey’s Erdogan to Ask for Release of Pastor Brunson

We commend this initiative and pray that it succeeds. The government of Turkey is brazenly disregarding the freedom of religion in holding the American Pastor Andrew Brunson prisoner since October 2016. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) explains that Pastor Brunson is “an American citizen and leader of a small Protestant Christian church who is facing up to 35 years imprisonment on false terrorism and espionage related charges.”

According to USCIRF, Pastor Brunson “was initially detained by Turkish officials on October 7, 2016 and accused of membership in an armed terrorist organization. On March 13, 2018, Turkish prosecutors indicted Pastor Brunson on terrorism and espionage related charges, seeking a sentence of up to 35 years’ imprisonment. His first hearing took place on April 16, 2018. Pastor Brunson has lived and worked in Turkey for over 22 years.”

The American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ) explained the truth about the charges against Pastor Brunson: “Pastor Andrew is innocent. This isn’t a real trial — it’s a show trial. He’s being held as a political prisoner because of his Christian faith.” The Turkish government, however, is not even allowing Pastor Brunson the right to defend himself against these false accusations.

With trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and gratitude to Almighty God for our Orthodox faith, we stand in prayerful hope and solidarity with our fellow Christians and all people of good will, praying urgently for the release of Pastor Brunson and for his safe return to his family.

“US Lawmakers Meet With Turkey’s President in Attempt to Secure Release of Pastor Brunson,” by Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post, July 1, 2018:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to secure the release of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in jail since October 2016 on false charges of espionage and terrorism and is being used by Turkey’s government for bargaining.

Pastor Brunson is “doing fine physically,” and “is not guilty” of anything, Graham says in a video he posted on Twitter Saturday. “We are working very hard to get him home.”

Graham called his meeting with President Erdoğan “good, respectful, and candid.”

“We have real differences, but far more in common,” he wrote. “Turkey needs to be a strategic partner for the U.S. in a win-win fashion. We spoke candidly about Pastor Brunson and other friction points, including the purchase of Russian made S-400s and American made F-35s. However, when it comes to the U.S.-Turkey relationship, failure is not an option.”

Shaheen also tweeted about the meeting. “… President Erdogan was receptive to my and @LindseyGrahamSC’s concerns,” she wrote after the meeting.

The Turkish government claims that Brunson is connected to the Islamic Gulen movement, which it accuses of being involved in a July 2016 coup attempt against the Erdoğan administration. Brunson is also accused of being involved with the Kurdistan Workers Party.

A court document submitted by the prosecution claims that churches in the United States are somehow connected so that they can go to other countries and disrupt and overthrow governments, and that those churches also gather intelligence.

Rights advocates believe that Brunson was arrested in an attempt to force the U.S. government to extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who resides in Pennsylvania.

Brunson, a North Carolina native who has led a small congregation in Izmir for the past two decades, has denied all the charges….

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