Turkey rejects Pastor Andrew Brunson’s claim of unlawful arrest, rights violations

Andrew Brunson speaks at a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom hearing on religious freedom issues in Turkey at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2019.
Andrew Brunson speaks at a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom hearing on religious freedom issues in Turkey at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2019. | The Christian Post

Turkey’s constitutional court this week rejected as “inadmissible” American Pastor Andrew Brunson’s appeal over rights violation for unlawfully arresting him and exceeding the legal limit of his detention. He was imprisoned for his faith for two years in that country.

Although he now lives in the United States, the prison sentence against Brunson, who was arrested in October 2016 and charged with espionage and committing crimes in the name of a terrorist organization as a non-member, remains. Brunson's appeal was made on the basis that his arrest was illegal and beyond the legal limit of detention.

“When the characteristics of the concrete case are taken into account, it cannot be said that the judicial control measure implemented by the İzmir 2nd Heavy Penal Court on the applicant was disproportional,” the court said Thursday, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

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The court added, “It has been concluded that the allegations as to the violation of personal liberty and security due to the unlawfulness of the arrest and exceeding the permitted period are inadmissible due to prescription.

Brunson is a Wheaton College graduate who served as the leader of a Protestant church in Izmir for over 23 years before he was arrested in October 2016 along with his wife, Norine.

Norine was released soon after, but Brunson was thrown in prison, accused of plotting to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

In 2018, Brunson’s family and U.S. officials who visited him in prison expressed concern with the fact that he had lost at least 50 pounds and was suffering from anxiety and depression.

In July that year, after the U.S. raised tariffs on certain metals and imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers responsible for his detention, a penal court in western Izmir issued an order for his release, allowing him to return to his home in Izmir but on the condition that he couldn’t leave his house or the country.

Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and a lawyer of President Donald Trump, said in a statement at the time that the house arrest was a “critical first step” to what he believed could “result in the freedom of Pastor Brunson” to return to his family in the U.S.

“The president has played a critical role in securing the freedom of Pastor Brunson,” Sekulow declared at the time. “We have worked closely with the president on this matter and are grateful for his efforts. We look forward to the ultimate release of Pastor Brunson.”

Brunson was finally released in October 2018 after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey.

At times, Brunson was jailed with as many as 21 other men in a cell intended to only hold eight. He was also usually the only Christian in his cell.

During a recent virtual event, called “Global Prayer for U.S. Election Integrity,” the pastor shared details about his imprisonment in Turkey, revealing he experienced a crisis of faith while in detention. “I was actually very afraid,” he admitted. “The issue, actually, is what we do when we’re afraid. There are things to be afraid of.”

At the event, the pastor also predicted that persecution of Christians in the United States would intensify due to “hostility toward people who embrace Jesus Christ and His teaching.”

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