Deportation of evangelist David Byle blocked, while pastor Andrew Brunson still imprisoned without evidence.
As Turkey continues to crack down on dissent in the wake of a failed coup, two longtime American Christian expats are struggling to stay in the Muslim-majority nation they have long served. So far, they have fared quite differently in Turkish courts.
Last week, dozens of US lawmakers called for Turkey to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who remains imprisoned there with limited access to his attorney and few details about the charges against him.
“We respectfully ask you to consider Brunson’s case and how the recent treatment of Brunson places significant strain not only on him and his family, but also on the robust bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkey,” read the letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and signed by 78 members of Congress.
Brunson’s wife, Norine, is praying the letter comes to the attention of President Donald Trump. After visiting her husband recently in prison—where they have been permitted to communicate through glass—she told supporters, he was “discouraged about the lack (seemingly) of action from the new administration.”
Despite attempts to appeal his case and ongoing campaigns calling for his release, Brunson faces an uncertain future in the country where he has pastored for 23 years. Over the past year, Turkey rose from No. 45 to No. 37 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian.
The only American Christian detained in the Muslim-majority nation, Brunson lost his initial attempt to appeal unfounded terrorism charges, and advocates aren’t sure if he’ll be able to continue to the appeals process to a higher court.