Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Daughter of Imprisoned US Pastor Andrew Brunson: Turkey Should Not Get Away With This

The daughter of imprisoned U.S. citizen Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey told the United Nations Human Rights Council that the terror allegations against her father are "absurd," as she shared a letter from him who said his only crime is being a "Christian pastor."
Jacqueline Brunson, speaking on behalf of the European Center for Law and Justice in Geneva on Friday, told the Council that her father has been wrongfully imprisoned for close to a year and a half, but is yet to be formally charged.
"Turkey should not get away with holding my father one more day," she maintained, urging the U.N. to do all it can to help see him get released and returned to America. 
"Having grown up in Turkey, it has been hard for me to understand the situation. My family loves and respects the Turkish people, and my father has been dedicated to serving them for over two decades," she said.
"I know the allegations against my father are absurd. He is not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government, my father is a peaceful pastor. My family has suffered greatly during the past year and a half, which has been filled with tears, and countless unanswered questions."

Monday, June 05, 2017

Political stalemate holds US pastor ‘hostage’ in Turkish jail

Comments this week from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan increased speculation that Turkey has been holding jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson hostage since last October in order to extract political concessions from the United States.

Addressing the parliamentary assembly of his ruling Justice and Development Party on 30 May, Erdoğan warned that under international agreements, Turkey could retaliate against countries refusing to extradite Turkish nationals accused by Ankara of links to Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish Muslim cleric accused of plotting the failed July 2016 coup attempt to overthrow the Turkish government.
“I am calling out to the whole world. I am saying that if you don’t help us … know that if your [citizens] fall into our hands someday, you will not be able to get them back,” Erdoğan declared.
For months, Turkey has been demanding that the US extradite Gülen, an elderly Islamic leader based in Pennsylvania for the past 20 years.
Ankara is also insisting that Germany and other European governments extradite the hundreds of Turkish military officers, academics, journalists and judicial personnel who have gone abroad and applied for asylum in the wake of the massive legal probe into more than 150,000 Turkish citizens suspected of links with the Gülen movement.
But despite President Erdoğan’s face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump in mid-May, Washington has yet to confirm that it has received “clear evidence” against Gülen that satisfies US judicial processes.
“Let the law proceed. Put forth the evidence, if you have any, and start the trial as soon as possible. Justice is all we want.”
Soner Tufan, Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey
“The U.S., tied to institutional obligations and balance of powers, remained unmoved on Gülen,” Istanbul Policy Center’s researching editor Megan Giscion noted in an opinion piece in Hurriyet Daily News on 27 May. “Much to the distaste of the U.S., Turkey still is yet to develop allegations against Brunson.”
Brunson was arrested last October in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir, apparently over his alleged missionary activities in support of two terrorist enemies of the Turkish government: Gülen, accused of orchestrating the attempted coup; and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighting the Turkish state for Kurdish self-rule inside Turkey.

But none of the actual charges which Turkish authorities claim make the pastor a “national security risk” have been revealed to either Brunson or his Turkish lawyer. His entire legal case file remains sealed, eight months later, fuelling suspicions that the “secret witness” accusations against him are trumped-up charges.
Back in March, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had indicated Turkey could consider “accelerating” the jailed pastor’s trial process, but he scoffed at suggestions that Brunson’s case had anything to do with Gülen’s extradition. “These matters are separate,” he insisted to a USA Today reporter visiting Ankara.
But Turkish Protestant church leaders monitoring the Evangelical Presbyterian pastor’s dilemma remain apprehensive, calling for the prosecutors to produce a formal indictment and open a court case.
“Let the law proceed. Put forth the evidence, if you have any, and start the trial as soon as possible,” spokesman Soner Tufan of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey told Al-Monitor. “Justice is all we want.”
But according to Ayhan Erdemir, a former Turkish opposition parliamentarian now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “The Turkish government has no intentions of providing Pastor Brunson a fair trial. Ankara sees Pastor Brunson as a hostage that they can use as leverage in their relations with the United States,” he told Al-Monitor.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Devil's Bargain? Why Turkish Referendum Spells Bad News for Religious Minorities

WASHINGTON – This week Turkey voted to trade democracy for what looks like authoritarian rule. If the referendum stands, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will gain power over all branches of government. That's bad news for Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey already facing persecution.
With a narrow vote that's being challenged after allegations of fraud, Turks lost the checks and balances in their government, just barely handing Erdogan the executive powers he's craved since a coup threatened to topple his reign last summer.
"The problem is that there are serious allegations and not only allegations but evidence of electoral fraud," said Aykan Erdemir, who served in Turkey's parliament until 2015.
Erdemir, a Muslim Turk, has dedicated his career to defending minority rights in his country, including those of Christians and Jews.
If the referendum stands, Erdogan will have executive, judicial and legislative powers.
Erdemir predicts conditions for Christians, who've already fallen prey to crackdowns and persecution, will continue to worsen.
During his victory speech, Erdogan invoked religious incitement, accusing the West of starting a "crusade" against Islam.
"So he's again using this kind of belligerent clash of Islam versus Christianity," Erdemir explained. "It's the battle of the cross versus the crescent rhetoric."
"And you can imagine if you are a member of Turkey's Jewish or Christian communities you will feel very threatened because you are a citizen," he continued. "And technically on paper you have the same rights as Turkey's majority Muslim population but you have a president who continues to single you out.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Turkey: Historic Urfa Church Given to Islamic School Foundation

Yet another example of intolerance has taken place in the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa (Urfa)—the historic Assyrian Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the city is now being used as a municipality-owned cultural center and the foundation of the Islamic school of Harran University.

According to sources, the church was used actively until 1924, when Assyrians (Syriac Christians) left for Aleppo.

Locals call the church “the Regie Church”, because Tekel, the Turkish tobacco and alcoholic beverage company, had once used it as a tobacco factory.  This tobacco factory had been known as the Regie Tobacco Company in Ottoman times, and was nationalized in 1925.
It was also used as a grape storehouse for decades. After its restoration in 1998, it hosted a carpet-making class. In 2002, it became the “Kemalettin Gazezoglu Cultural Center,” named after the governor of the city. Today, a part of it has been given to a foundation that runs the Islamic school at the city’s university.
Turkey has used the historic church for many different purposes—except for its intended purpose: a church.

Erdogan slammed over Christmas message of tolerance while American missionary is still imprisoned in Turkey

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been slammed for delivering a Christmas message praising the country's "culture of tolerance" while an American pastor is still imprisoned in the country over false charges.

On Saturday, President Erdogan released his Christmas greetings to Turkish Christian citizens and to Christians everywhere. He said the country's culture of tolerance has allowed various traditions and beliefs to co-exist peacefully, Andalou Agency details.
"We, the members of this deep-rooted tradition, continue to embrace all the oppressed who have escaped war, oppression, and pressure," said Erdogan in his Christmas message. "The centuries-old tolerant environment in our country which has hosted different civilizations, different beliefs, and ideas throughout history, continues its existence today despite the various assaults against our nation's unity and peace."
However, The Blaze criticized Erdogan for speaking about hope and tolerance while North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson is still jailed in Turkey over trumped-up charges. For the publication, the Turkish president's Christmas message is a clear contrast to the situation of persecuted and imprisoned pastors in the Middle Eastern country.

Turkey denies appeal for jailed Christian pastor Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/12/turkey-denies-appeal-for-jailed-christian-pastor/#JqHC30m1gDQgEj6B.99

Turkish officials Thursday denied the appeal of imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed in October on claims by officials that he held “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
The American Center for Law and Justice, which is defending Brunson, said the claims are simply trumped up.
On Thursday, they pointed out that “the charging documents do not present any evidence against him.”
Brunson unsuccessfully appealed his detention.
ACLJ said another appeal to a higher court is allowed, but it is uncertain how that appeal process will go.
Previously, the legal group said, Brunson was denied access to his Turkish attorney.
“Now, he is allowed visits with his Turkish attorney – however, due to an emergency decree in Turkey, those visits are recorded and any notes taken by his attorney are copied. Thus, Pastor Andrew has no attorney-client privilege,” ACLJ said.
“Yesterday, Pastor Andrew was allowed a visit with family. During that visit, Pastor Andrew indicated that, while he had been previously denied a Bible, he is now allowed to have a New Testament. Pastor Andrew also has a visit with U.S. Embassy officials scheduled for tomorrow.
“We are continuing our diplomatic efforts to engage the incoming U.S. administration, and moving forward with an appeal of his case,” ACLJ said.

Read more

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Family fights for release of US pastor jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges

The family of a U.S pastor imprisoned in Turkey launched a campaign Wednesday for his release, saying the North Carolina native is being held on false terrorism-related charges and that his life is in danger.
Andrew Brunson, 48, pastor of a Protestant church in Izmir, was locked up Friday after first being detained in October. The government accuses him of having ties to an American-based cleric, Fetullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for a July coup attempt.
"The government of Turkey -- led by an Islamic party -- has begun increased crackdowns on Christians, and Pastor Andrew, if convicted, may face years in prison based on extremely serious -- and false -- charges," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Brunson's family.
Brunson and his wife, Norine -- originally from Black Mountain, N.C. -- have lived in Turkey for 23 years, running a Christian church with the full knowledge of local authorities, according to the ACLJ.
On Wednesday, after weeks of silence, the family called the charges against Brunson "unfounded" and "shocking" and demanded his immediate release. 
"Andrew’s strong faith has always been at the center of his life and that has never been more evident than his pastorship in Turkey," his family said in a statement. "His love and concern for the people of Turkey is unmistakable, as he has dedicated 23 years of his life serving them."
Brunson was summoned to a local police station in Izmir on Oct. 7. According to the family, Brunson, a U.S. citizen, thought he would be receiving a long-awaited permanent residence card. Instead, Brunson was told he was being deported because he was a "threat to national security."
Brunson was arrested and fingerprinted while awaiting deportation. Officials confiscated personal items, including his phone, and denied him access to a Bible. They also prevented him from consulting an attorney and kept him in isolation for a period of time.
But Brunson's ordeal would soon take a dark turn.  
On Friday, after 63 days in captivity, Brunson was taken to a counter-terrorism center in Izmir. After further questioning, he was charged with "membership in an armed terrorist organization," and a judge ordered he be imprisoned instead of deported.
Lawyers for the ACLJ told FoxNews.com Wednesday that the charging documents include no evidence to support claims the man broke any law. If convicted of such terrorism charges, Brunson could face years of imprisonment.
"We are launching a global campaign to call attention to his plight demanding that Turkey – a NATO member – release Pastor Andrew without delay," Sekulow said. 
The family said the U.S. State Department as well as a member of Congress have been quietly negotiating his release over the last several weeks.
"We have seen reports of U.S. citizens in Turkey being detained and deported," a U.S. State Department official told FoxNews.com Tuesday, though the official did not mention Brunson by name, citing privacy concerns."
"The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens arrested abroad seriously. When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, we seek to visit as soon as possible and to provide appropriate consular services," the official said.
The Brunsons, with help from the ACLJ, launched a global campaign Wednesday to raise awareness of the pastor's plight and pressure the U.S. government as well as the United Nations and NATO countries to act on his behalf. Turkey is a member of NATO. An online petition is also being circulated to help secure Brunson's release. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christian Pastor In Turkey Imprisoned And Accused Of Armed Terrorism Links

A Turkish judge sent Rev. Andrew Brunson to prison in Izmir today, 64 days after the US pastor and his wife, Norine, were detained on 7 Oct. under Interior Ministry deportation orders.
Although his wife was released on 19 Oct. and given an extended permit to remain in the country, Andrew Brunson has been held since 20 Oct. at the Harmandali Detention Centre on the northern edge of Izmir.
The 48-year-old was transferred overnight on 8 Dec. to a counter-terrorism centre, before being brought before an Izmir court today (9 Dec.) for interrogation.
The American Protestant heard today for the first time the allegations filed against him, which apparently prompted his arrest and lengthy detention. According to the officiating judge, the “terrorism” charges came from a “secret informant”. The court ruled that the files on Brunson’s case would continue to remain inaccessible to his lawyer, who had not been allowed to meet him until today’s hearing.
Brunson’s lawyer has confirmed that the court document released at the hearing charged her US client with “membership in an armed terrorist organisation”. The judge specifically mentioned allegations that the pastor had links with the Fetullah Gulen movement, which is accused by Ankara of instigating a failed military coup against the Turkish government on 15 July. The pastor is now incarcerated at Izmir’s Sakran 3 Nolu T Tipi Prison.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Mounting Concerns About Detained US Couple In Turkey

Christians have expressed concern about the plight of American Christians Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine who were detained in Turkey earlier this month on charges that friends linked to their church work. Turkish officials arrested and detained the couple on October 7 in the coastal city of Izmir saying their activities constituted “national security risks”," explained advocacy group Voice of the Persecuted (VOP).

The couple had been been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a church with "the full knowledge of the local authorities," the group added in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife. "They were summoned to the police department on Friday, October 7, for what they assumed would be questions about their recent residency application. Upon their arrival they were presented with a letter from Ankara labeling them a threat to national security and ordering their deportation."

The couple was "immediately detained, their phones were confiscated, and they were completely isolated from the outside world," VOP said.

Turkish authorities reportedly denied repeated requests from their lawyers, the United States State Department, and friends to see them or communicate with them in any way. The couple was also "explicitly forbidden from having a Bible, and were not allowed to receive books or any change of clothes. Andrew’s glasses and watch were taken away," stressed VOP, which closely monitors the case.

"They were told that their government had forgotten about them and that “hopefully” they would be deported, suggesting that they might simply disappear and never be heard from again."

While Norine Brunson was released after 12 days on October 19 and verbally told that all charges against her were dropped, a lawyer apparently told her that it is almost certainly "not true given that nothing was put in writing."

She was allowed to see her husband for half an hour on October 20, but was denied any access the next day, Christians said. Besides with his wife, Andrew Brunson has had no contact with the outside world since his detention, according to VOP.

"Norine and Andrew explicitly waived their right to protest the deportation, and yet there has been no deportation to date." Rights activists said Turkey violates the right to legal counsel is guaranteed under Turkish law, and the right of the US State Department to visit detained American citizens as guaranteed by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which Turkey has ratified.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Was Kicked Out Of Turkey For Being A Christian

Turkey has been Ryan Keating's home for more than 20 years. But last week all that was thrown into jeopardy.
After a short trip out of the country, the American was told he could never come back. No reason was given. There was no investigation. No evidence. He was held in a cell overnight at Istanbul airport and interrogated by the anti-terror police. Then he was told he was a threat to national security and forced aboard the next plane out the country.
"Unfortunately this is typical of the kind of treatment that Christians often get in Turkey," he told Christian Today.
Keating has been in and out of the country since 1993 and has been a full-time resident in the capital Ankara with his wife and four children for the last ten years.
He is doing a PhD in philosophy of religion at Ankara University and has set up Ankara Refugee Ministry (ARM), which provides food, shelter and clothing to 6,000 of refugee families. Run out of Kurtulus Church, one of Turkey's largest evangelical churches, which the Keatings attend, ARM also offers English classes and career training for a handful of Turkey's 2.7 million refugees.
On top of that Keating runs a coffee company called Coffee Haus and directs a discipleship program at his church.
All that is at risk now because Keating has been labeled "a threat to national security" and given a lifetime ban from Turkey.
He has appealed the decision but cases such as his normally take at least two years to resolve and for that time, Keating is a nomad. But he is quick to stress his treatment is not unusual for Christians in Turkey.
"There has been some ways in which Turkey has given increased freedom to religious minorities. But there are other incidents of arbitrary discrimination and this is one of them.
"There is no evidence or justification for why I have been banned. I know I haven't done anything illegal ever in Turkey. We are very careful to obey the laws. We have done nothing to threaten or do harm to Turkey in any way.
"There has been no investigation, no evidence, just an arbitrary ban. And to use this blanket 'threat to national security' – what does that even mean? What are they suggesting I have done or would do?"
Although his family have stayed in Turkey for the time being, they are concerned about their future. They have packed emergency bags in case they are arrested at short notice.
"We have generally been safe, if tense, in Turkey," he said. "But if I can be banned they're all worried about they will be as well."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Turkey Deporting More Christian Ministry Workers, Tagging Them as Threats to National Security

More and more Christians doing ministry work or working in churches in Turkey are being deported by local authorities from the Muslim nation, with some of the Christians tagged as threats to the country's national security.
Among these Christian ministry workers who are experiencing persecution in Turkey are Andrew and Norine Brunson, who are leading the Izmir Resurrection Church located in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The church currently has an average of 30 to 40 worshippers.
The Christian couple, who have been residing in Turkey for the past 20 years, were detained by Turkish officials for supposedly conducting activities that constitute a "national security risk."
The Turkish Interior Ministry has already ordered their summary deportation. The Christian couple have been trying since last April to renew their resident visas but have not received any response from the concerned agencies.
A lawyer who was trying to help the couple sort out their immigration problems was also reportedly denied access to the Christians. Church friends who tried sending clothes to the Brunsons were also turned away.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Five Turks Convicted of Killing Christians in Malatya Sentenced for Life – But Remain Free

Nine years after three Christians were tortured with knives and murdered in southeast Turkey, the Criminal Court in the city of Malatya, where it happened, has convicted their five accused killers, sentencing each of them on 28 Sept. to three consecutive life sentences in prison.

News of the long-awaited verdicts in the notorious "Malatya massacre" case quickly flashed throughout the Turkish media at the conclusion of the trial's 115th hearing. Emre Gunaydin, Salih Gurler, Abuzer Yildirim, Cuma Ozdemir and Hamit Ceker were all found guilty of premeditated murder, to be jailed for life without the possibility of parole.
But most media outlets failed to report the court's surprise ruling: that the now convicted killers would in fact still remain free, subject only to routine surveillance, while the case is being appealed before two higher courts.
Hours after the court decisions were announced, Pastor Ihsan Ozbek released a statement to the press on behalf of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey.
Deploring the judiciary's stated inability to "uncover the darkness behind the murders", Ozbek declared that the Protestant community desired a prompt, "just conclusion" that uncovered the motivation of the perpetrators and punished their crime.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


You don't need to have "Istanbul, Not Constantinople" memorized to know that Turkey is a Muslim country built by Muslim colonists and settlers on the back of a Christian civilization. Some of its mosques used to be churches. And quite a few Muslims in Turkey would like to turn all the remaining churches into mosques or, in some cases, back into mosques.
That makes the question of church property an explosive one and the seizures of churches by the Islamist AKP Erdogan regime more troubling.
After 10 months of urban conflict in Turkey’s war-torn southeast, the government has expropriated huge sections of property, apparently to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.
But to the dismay of the city’s handful of Christian congregations, this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey’s ancient church buildings – some of which pre-date Islam – have been managed, historically, by church foundations.
The Erdogan regime has a history of using this brand of eminent domain and accompanying "reconstruction" to eliminate problem areas. Tear down a place that serves as a gathering for people you don't like and replace it with a shopping mall. The Europeans won't complain. They'll float you a loan to do it.
While Obama welcomes Erdogan's megamosque in America, Christians have trouble with churches in Turkey. But Obama instead lobbies Greece to make more space for Islamic services.
On April 2, a gigantic Ottoman style of mosque was opened in Lanham, Maryland by the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The mosque, according to Turkish officials, is "one of the largest Turkish mosques built outside Turkey."
Funds to build it, as reported by the Turkish pro-government newspaper, Sabah, came from Turkey's state-run Presidency of Religious Affairs, known as the Diyanet, as well as Turkish-American non-profit organizations.
The mosque is actually part of a larger complex, commonly referred to as "Maryland kulliye." Akulliye, as such Islamic compounds were called in Ottoman times, is a complex of buildings, centered on a mosque and composed of various facilities including a madrassa (Islamic religious school).
Erdogan recited verses from the Quran inside the mosque after the mosque was opened.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from the American soil, in Turkey, Christians have for decades been deprived of the right to build their places of worship.
It's not just that the left insists on welcoming Muslims. But it shows its double standards when it refuses to stand up for the rights of Christians. It doesn't believe in freedom of worship. It believes in empowering Islamists to oppress Christians and Jews, not to mention Hindus and Buddhists, all over the world.

Turkey Builds Mega-Mosque in U.S., Blocks Churches in Turkey

  • As yet another enormous mosque has opened in the U.S. (funded by the Turkish government), Christians in Turkey are waiting for the day when Turkish state authorities will allow them freely to build or use their churches and safely pray inside them.
  • In Turkey, some churches have been converted to stables or used as storehouses. Others have been completely destroyed. Sales of churches on the internet are a common practice.
  • Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan said during the opening ceremony of the Maryland mosque that the center was important at a time of an "unfortunate rise in intolerance towards Muslims in the United States and the world."
  • How would Muslims feel if mosques in Mecca were put up for sale on the internet, turned into stables, or razed to the ground? How would they feel if a Muslim child were beaten in the classroom by his teacher for not saying "Jesus is my Lord and Savior?" How would they feel if they continually received violent threats or insults for just attempting peacefully to worship in their mosques?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Turkey Seizes Six Churches as State Property in Volatile Southeast

After 10 months of urban conflict in Turkey's war-torn southeast, the government has expropriated huge sections of property, apparently to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the region's largest city, Diyarbakir.

But to the dismay of the city's handful of Christian congregations, this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey's ancient church buildings - some of which pre-date Islam - have been managed, historically, by church foundations.

The new decision has effectively made the Diyarbakir churches - one 1,700 years old, another built only in 2003 - state property of Turkey, an Islamic country of 75 million.