American Pastor Andrew Brunson has been released from house arrest in Turkey! Thank you to all who have prayed for him and his court case.
The court sentenced Andrew to three years and one month in prison, but chose to release him based on his time already served. He could have faced up to 35 years in prison.
Before the verdict, Andrew was able to meet his wife Norine in the courthouse. "I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey," he said.
Andrew's lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt told CNN that Brunson's electronic tag would later be removed and that his client was now a ‘free man’.
A source, who confirmed Brunson's travel ban and house arrest had been lifted, told CNN that the next step was to guard his safety and get him out of the country.
‘Arrested due to his faith’
Andrew and his wife Norine were originally arrested on 7 October 2016 and held in an immigration holding facility pending deportation. Norine was subsequently released, but Andrew was detained without bail due to allegations linking him to ‘terrorist groups’ and accusing him of ‘missionary activities’.
Before his arrest, Andrew had led a church in the Turkish city of Izmir for 25 years. “There is evidence that shows Brunson was arrested due to his faith,” Andrew’s lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt has said.
At times the conditions he has been kept in have been grim; in one prison where he was held, two dozen inmates are crammed into a cell designed for eight. During the time he was imprisoned he lost 50 pounds, and missed his daughter’s wedding.
He was moved to house arrest in July this year.
Stand with your church family in Turkey
While Andrew is now free and will soon be reunited with his family, Turkish Christians continue to face persecution.
Turkey is number 31 on the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List. Leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of Turkish identity. Some believers from Muslim backgrounds keep their faith a secret and are too afraid to meet with other Christians because of pressure from their families and communities. Religion is recorded on ID cards, and can be difficult to change. If believers change their religion to ‘Christian’ on their ID cards, it is easy for employers to discriminate against them. However, if they don’t, their children will automatically be registered as Muslim and expected to attend Islamic classes.
Please continue to pray for Andrew and for our church family in Turkey. Pray:
- For healing for Andrew and his family as they recover from this experience
- For strength and encouragement for those who are treated as traitors in Turkey after embracing the Christian faith
- For hope for all who are experiencing persecution, and that they will be able to put their trust in God.