In an unexpected video conference with a judge last Thursday, American Pastor Andrew Brunson was informed that the prosecutor had added additional charges upon which his continued detainment was now based.
These “new” charges, coming 322 days after his initial arrest in October of last year, are obviously just as false and ridiculous as the original charge of membership in an armed terrorist organization. Disturbingly, the new charges are even more serious than the original charge and carry stiff sentences, if convicted. Furthermore, Pastor Andrew’s file continues to remain sealed, making it impossible to defend against the unknown.
Although new charges have been added, any evidence supporting such absurd claims has yet to be presented, and no indictment has been handed down. In his response to the judge, Pastor Andrew adamantly maintained his innocence and denied the charges. He pleaded with the judge that evidence be provided. He reiterated his sole purpose for being in Turkey for the past 23 years was “for one purpose only. To tell about Jesus Christ.” He stated further that he has “done this openly, in front of the government.”
The charges were announced just a day before President Erdoğan implemented two new emergency decrees on August 25th. Decree 693 and 694 give Erdoğan a slew of new powers, which resulted in the immediate firing of almost 1,000 additional government employees and closure of 3 more media outlets. This bringing the total number of dismissals and/or suspensions to almost 150,000 since last year, according to reports. Interestingly, Article 74 of Decree 694 also gives Erdoğan the power to return prisoners to their home countries. Stating:
With the exclusion of Turkish citizens, those who are prisoners or convicts, upon assurance that they will not be punished because of their race, ethnic origin, religion or citizenship, that they will not be subjected to demeaning punishment or treatment, or be subjected to torture or mistreatment, can be returned to another country or exchanged for prisoners or convicts in another country when national security or the country’s interests so require and upon request of the Foreign Minister, with the recommendation of the Justice Minister and the approval of the President.
On the heels of the additional unfounded allegations against Pastor Andrew, this new power is one that must be implemented on his behalf.
Pastor Andrew has been unjustly separated from his family for far too long. He should not have to endure even one more day in a Turkish prison. He should be released immediately and returned to the United States to be reunited with his family. Given this new opportunity, it is critical to encourage President Erdoğan to execute this new power on behalf of Pastor Andrew and return him to the United States. Please join our efforts to bring Pastor Andrew safely back to the U.S. by adding your name to our petition advocating for his immediate release.
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