USCIRF Statement on Anniversary of Pastor Andrew Brunson’s Release

Oct 10, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2019

 

USCIRF Statement on Anniversary of Pastor Andrew Brunson’s Release

 

WASHINGTON, DC – On October 12, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) marks the one-year anniversary of Pastor Andrew Brunson’s release by Turkish authorities. Pastor Brunson was first detained on false charges on October 7, 2016, and served almost two years in prison before he was transferred to house arrest on July 25, 2018. On October 12, 2018, a Turkish court unjustly convicted Pastor Brunson of providing aid to a terrorist organization and sentenced him to over three years, which the judge counted as time served.

USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said, “Today, we look back and honor Pastor Brunson’s remarkable resolve and steadfastness in the face of persecution, and we celebrate his release and return home. However, we also remember his terrible suffering at the hands of Turkish authorities who targeted him for the practice of his faith.”

While Pastor Brunson’s two-year ordeal has thankfully ended, we remain concerned for the state of religious freedom in Turkey, where numerous religious communities, such as the Alevis, Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox, and others continue to face government interference and other restrictions,” said USCIRF Commissioner Kristina Arriaga. “The Turkish government must cease its meddling and work to ensure religious freedom for all its citizens.” 

USCIRF advocated for Pastor Brunson’s release as part of its Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, for which Commissioner Kristina Arriaga adopted his case. Commissioner Arriaga and former Commissioner Sandra Jolley visited Pastor Brunson in Kırıklar Prison, the first non-family, non-consular delegation to meet with him. Chair Tony Perkins attended the hearing that led to Pastor’s Brunson’s release and accompanied him back to the United States from Turkey. On June 27, 2019, USCIRF held a hearing on the Turkish government’s interference in religious freedom, at which Pastor Brunson testified as a witness.

 

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Dwight Bashir at dbashir@uscirf.gov or +1-703-898-6554.