FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 7, 2017
TURKEY: USCIRF Delegation Visits Imprisoned U.S. Citizen Pastor Andrew Brunson
Pastor Brunson says, "Knowing that I am not forgotten is important to me"
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Almost a year to the day when American Pastor Andrew Brunson was detained, Vice Chairwomen Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga, of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), visited him in Kiriklar Prison in Izmir, Turkey. Since his imprisonment, only his lawyer, relatives, and U.S. embassy officials had been able to see him.
"The government of Turkey has fabricated charges against Pastor Brunson, largely based on purported 'secret testimony'," said Vice Chairwoman Arriaga. "He should be released immediately.""I wish to thank everyone who is advocating and praying for me," Pastor Brunson said during the visit. "Knowing that I am not forgotten is important to me."
Pastor Brunson was initially confined to a cell meant to accommodate 8 men but was instead crowded with 21 prisoners. He has since been moved to Kiriklar Prison where he is confined 24-hours a day to a cell with two others accused of being members of the Gülen movement. Suffering from the effects of the sustained stress he has endured, he has lost over 50 pounds.
Pastor Brunson spent over 20 years ministering to Christians in Turkey. He has been accused of trying to overthrow the Turkish government and its constitution, all charges he says are completely false. If convicted, Pastor Brunson could be sentenced to life in prison.
USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Jolley said, "He lives in a world of psychic and physical dislocation. Despite a public veneer of a legal process, the truth is Pastor Brunson has had no due process, no true information about the charges against him, unreliable court dates, and no idea when he ever again will see his children or his country."
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 John D. Lawrence, Director of Communications (JLawrence@USCIRF.gov/ +1-202-786-0611).