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American pastor Andrew Brunson has served one year as a prisoner in Turkey. Charges against him are unclear, and recently Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed publicly that Brunson is being held as a political hostage.
Brunson is one of an estimated 50,000 “suspected” public servants, academics, journalists and rights activists jailed in a 15-month crackdown by Turkey in its attempt to identify and punish the so-called Fethullah Terror Organization (FETO) it accuses of infiltrating the country’s armed forces and government. President Erdoğan hopes the US will extradite exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of orchestrating the attempted coup.
Brunson, who has lived and worked in church-related ministries in Turkey for 23 years, was recently visited in prison by a delegation from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). They said he was confined to a cell 24 hours a day and has lost more than 50 pounds since being imprisoned.
“The government of Turkey has fabricated charges against Pastor Brunson, largely based on a purported ‘secret testimony’,” said USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Kristina Arriaga, after visiting Brunson, almost a year to the day since his incarceration. “He should be released immediately.”
Brunson reportedly told Arriaga: “I wish to thank everyone who is advocating and praying for me. Knowing that I am not forgotten is important to me.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator James Lankford wrote: “If this is how Turkey treats an American like Brunson, other Americans should hesitate before taking their business to Turkey. It is not worth the risk. Congress has provided the executive branch with sanction authority for use against government officials who are responsible for routine and egregious human rights violations, especially religious freedom. It is time for the United States government to use these authorities to secure the release of Americans unjustly detained around the world, including Brunson.”
During his imprisonment, Brunson has written a song of worship, which his wife has given permission to be published:
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