Pastor Brunson Safely Home in America After Two Years of Prison in Turkey

Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, who served a small Evangelical Presbyterian congregation in Izmir, Turkey, for 23 years, is back in the U.S. after more than two years in prison.

Brunson was arrested in Oct 2016, shortly after a failed coup to overthrow the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His wife Norine was arrested and jailed at the same time but was released after 13 days. Having pastored openly with no problem for two decades, the arrest came as a shock.

Seventeen months after his arrest, Brunson and his lawyer finally saw his 62-page formal indictment, but only after it was leaked to the Turkish media. He had been charged with terrorism and espionage—charges Brunson unequivocally denies.

Brunson spent part of his incarceration in solitary confinement, then was jammed with 20 other inmates into a cell meant for eight. He was not beaten or interrogated, he says, and was finally allowed to have a Bible, and was permitted a weekly 35-minute visit with his wife.

After two years of hardship, Brunson finally appeared in court in April 2018. His trial was attended by U.S. Ambassador-a-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, who said the charges against Brunson were “completely specious” and without any “factual basis.” The Turkish court found Brunson guilty of terrorism, which carries a maximum 35-year prison term, but released him based on time served.

On his return to America, Pastor Brunson and his wife met with the president at the White House and were interviewed about their ordeal on CBS This Morning.

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Turkey religious repression