Turkey (MNN) — American Pastor Andrew Brunson has his next hearing tomorrow in a court case that has dragged on for two years. Brunson appealed to Turkey’s highest court for release last week. But is there any hope that he could be freed tomorrow?
Brunson was arrested in Turkey back in 2016 during a post-coup purge that cracked down several sectors, including foreign nationals. He was charged with terrorism and espionage. However, there has been no solid evidence presented. The only things Brunson has going against him are that he is an American and a Christian.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s hearing, Miles Windsor with Middle East Concern says it’s hard to guess the outcome.
“I know the Secretary of State has mentioned that he is optimistic that Andrew will be released at that point. We hope that that’s the case, we are praying that that’s the case, but it is I think very difficult to say what will happen at that hearing. Turkey is a very unpredictable country in terms of the way its leadership responds to these situations and to discussions.”
Specifically, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps changing his tune on what supposedly can and cannot be done for Brunson’s case.
“In late September, [Erdogan] said that as the president he doesn’t have the right to order Andrew’s release, stating the judiciary is independent. Now, that statement in and of itself isn’t true given that he enacted legislation on August 27 which specifically allows him presidential powers to release foreign nationals from prison if it’s in Turkey’s interest. Given what has happened to Turkey’s economy as a result of the American sanctions and response to the situation, it is in Turkey’s interest.”
Erdogan demonstrated further inconsistency at the opening of the Turkish Parliament on October 1st when he said, “We are determined to fight this twisted attitude that has attempted to impose sanctions on our country by using a pastor who has dark ties to terror groups as the pretext.”
Windsor explains, in making this comment, “[Erdogan was] signaling a complete disinterest in what his supposedly independent judiciary will decide at that next hearing, troublingly describing [Brunson] as a pastor with dark ties to terror groups.”
The US raised the stakes in August when President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on imported Turkish goods and sanctioned Turkish officials. If Turkey gives in to US demands to release Brunson, Windsor suspects Erdogan will attempt to maintain a powerful front.
“The reality is that Erdogan has done very well off anti-American sentiment. It’s a sentiment which has been growing and developing in Turkey especially as a result of a lot of the state-run media and how that portrays the United States. So any move that will make him look weak to the Turkish people, make him look like he is submitting to the demands of the United States is not in his interest. So if there is a way of creating a situation in which he is able to save face whilst releasing Andrew, then I think that will be welcome all around because it has had a very negative impact on Turkey.”
Meanwhile, the Turkish government’s treatment of Brunson has put some of the nation’s Christians on edge.
“It’s a situation which allows Christians to be presented as agents of the West or potentially having negative links to organizations that would be seeking to undermine the Turkish authorities — all of which is obviously ludicrous.”
On the other hand, Windsor points out, Brunson’s case has enough unique characteristics that make him a more obvious political target than the average Turkish believer.
“It is a situation which is undoubtedly linked to his faith and his work as a Christian in the country. However, it is also very much about a much bigger picture of political relations between the US and Turkey. So I doubt what we are going to see is a situation in which these kinds of cases are going to be happening across the country with many Turkish national Christians.”
Right now, the best thing we can do as the Body of Christ is pray for the Brunsons.
“I know that Andrew and his family would really value prayer — first and foremost, that they will all be a tremendous witness to God’s love in that situation, God’s goodness. [Pray] that they would be trusting in Him through what is a deeply traumatic time, knowing His comfort and goodness. But also obviously, it would be great to see justice done. We have a God of justice and we want to see justice done in this situation for Andrew.
“Also, I’m sure they would want prayer for their brothers and sisters in the faith in Turkey — that they would know God’s comfort and protection as well, that this wouldn’t be a precursor to even worse circumstances for them, and that they would be a light shining in the darkness.”