A pastor and North Carolina native is being held in Turkey on unsubstantiated charges of terrorism related activity. Here are five facts about the case behind the social media campaign, #ForgottenAmericanInTurkey:
1. After more than 20 years of serving as an evangelical missionary in Turkey, Andrew Brunson, 48, thought he was being summoned to receive a long-awaited permanent residence card. Instead, Brunson was notified that he was being deported based on being a “threat to national security.” He was held for 63 days while being denied access to an attorney—and even denied access to a Bible. Brunson was then taken to a counter-terrorism center in Izmir and then taken to court, where he was accused of having ties to an American-based cleric, Fetullah Gulen, who is being blamed for a coup attempt in July 2016.
2. According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), an organization that is representing Brunson’s family, the Turkish court had the option to deport Pastor Brunson, release him with the condition that he sign-in with local authorities weekly, or imprison him. The judge decided to keep him in prison.
4. “The government of Turkey—led by an Islamic party—has begun increased crackdowns on Christians,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, “and Pastor Andrew, if convicted, may face years in prison based on extremely serious—and false—charges. We are launching a global campaign to call attention to his plight demanding that Turkey— a NATO member—release Pastor Andrew without delay.” Several Christian organizations, including ERLC, have joined in this campaign. 78 members of Congress from the House and the Senate have also written a letter to Turkish President Erdoğan, asking for Andrew's prompt release.
5. Last week, Sekulow met with President Trump to discuss Brunson’s situation and to urge the president to bring up the case when he meet with Turkish President Erdoğan. The White House confirmed Trump raised the subject of Brunson during his meeting on Wednesday with Erdoğan. “President Trump raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish Government expeditiously return him to the United States,” the White House said in a statement after the meeting.
5. There is a petition you can sign to protest Bunson’s imprisonment. When commenting on this situation on social media you can include the hashtags #freeAndrewBrunson, #SaveBrunson, or #ForgottenAmericanInTurkey.