ISTANBUL, TURKEY – An evangelical American pastor held in Turkey on terrorism charges will be sent back to the U.S. following a hearing Friday in which a judge lifted his house arrest, removing what has become a major irritant in the relationship between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.
The pastor spent nearly two years in prison before being transferred in July to house arrest. The Trump administration had imposed sanctions on two Turkish officials who were linked to the arrest and detention of the pastor along with other economic actions against the Turkish government.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, in his capacity as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, attended this morning’s hearing near Izmir, Turkey where Pastor Andrew Brunson was released to return to the United States. Perkins, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, offered the following comments after attending Pastor Brunson’s hearing this morning:
“The prayers of thousands were answered today when Pastor Brunson was released by the Turkish government and told he could go home to the United States. Those prayers combined with the unwavering resolve of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback brought tangible help to Pastor Brunson and hope to those around the globe who are being persecuted because of their faith.
“Pastor Brunson was also well represented legally by our friends at the American Center for Law and Justice and we commend them and their attorneys for the outstanding work they did on behalf of Pastor Brunson.
“Yesterday afternoon I visited with Pastor Brunson and his wife Norine and delivered letters from President Trump and Vice President Pence that assured them of this administration’s commitment to them and the underlying principle of religious freedom. I also took the opportunity to share with them the names of over 16,000 Christians in the US that signed a pledge over the last few days to stand with them in prayer — those prayers have been answered.
“America seeks the well-being of all peaceful, freedom loving people, but this administration has made clear America will not sacrifice religious freedom and the well-being of Americans on the altar of globalism,” concluded Perkins.
Brunson left the courthouse by car shortly after the decision was announced, and American officials following the case said he would return home to Izmir before departing for the United States on Saturday morning.