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USCIRF Strongly Condemns New Indictment Against Pastor Andrew Brunson, Including Possible Life Sentence

Pastor Andrew Brunson

Photo Credit: fpclw.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2018

USCIRF Strongly Condemns New Indictment Against Pastor Andrew Brunson, Including Possible Life Sentence

“USCIRF urges President Trump and others in the administration to redouble their ongoing efforts to secure Pastor Brunson’s release. No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American. We call again for his immediate release and, if this is not forthcoming, for the administration and Congress to impose targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice,” said USCIRF Vice Chairs Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns a new indictment issued by Turkish prosecutors this week charging Pastor Andrew Brunson with “leadership in a terrorist organization” and seeking a possible life sentence in his case. Pastor Brunson is an American citizen and the leader of a small Protestant Christian church in the city of Izmir, Turkey, where he has served for over 22 years. He was detained on October 7, 2016 and accused by Turkish officials of membership in an armed terrorist organization, though official charges have not yet been released to the public. 

“USCIRF urges President Trump and others in the administration to redouble their ongoing efforts to secure Pastor Brunson’s release. No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American. We call again for his immediate release and, if this is not forthcoming, for the administration and Congress to impose targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice,” said USCIRF Vice Chairs Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga.  

On March 9, Pastor Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling the allegations against her father “absurd” and noting that her family “has suffered greatly during the past year and half.” High level U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have called for Pastor Brunson’s release, including most recently by Secretary Tillerson during a visit to Ankara last month.

On October 5, 2017, USCIRF Vice Chairs Jolley and Arriaga were granted access to Kiriklar Prison in Izmir and allowed to visit with Pastor Brunson. They were his first visitors outside of family, legal counsel, and U.S. embassy officials. They described their visit in an opinion editorial for Religion News Service, which can be found here.

“USCIRF is appalled that Turkish officials are seeking a possible life sentence for Pastor Brunson and are accusing him of leadership in a terrorist organization. The government of Turkey has detained Pastor Brunson largely based on a purported ‘secret witness’ and secret evidence which they refuse to make public. The Turkish government should reverse course immediately and we urge the international community to condemn this indictment,” continued Vice Chairs Jolley and Arriaga.     

In 2017, USCIRF placed Turkey on its Tier 2 for violations of religious freedom and began advocating for Pastor Brunson as a part of its Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.

For more information, see USCIRF’s 2017 annual report chapter on Turkey.

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Isaac Six, Associate Director of Congressional Affairs (ISix@USCIRF.gov +1-202-786-0606).