Human Rights Voices

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Turkey, March 30, 2017

US Pastor Held in Turkey Appeals to Trump: ‘Please Help Me’

Original source

Fox News

An American pastor imprisoned in Turkey on what he says are false charges appealed to President Trump to "please help me" during a meeting Wednesday with U.S. embassy officials, asking the administration to "fight" for his release.

In a written statement released to the public and delivered to the embassy representatives, Pastor Andrew Brunson even said the State Department should impose sanctions.

"Will the Turkish government face no consequence for stubbornly continuing to hold an American citizen as a political prisoner?" he said. "... I appeal to President Trump: please help me. Let the Turkish government know that you will not cooperate with them in any way until they release me. Please do not leave me here in prison."

The appeal comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson holds meetings in the Turkish capital of Ankara, including with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The American Center for Law and Justice and other allies – including Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. – have taken up Brunson's case in recent weeks to press for his release.

The pastor was detained back in October along with his wife in the Turkish coastal town of Izmir where he has carried out his ministry for two decades. The arrests were part of Turkish authorities' broad crackdown after the 2016 failed military coup.

According to Lankford, the couple was called in for a routine visa check when the ordeal began.

"Instead they were detained there at the police station, saying they may be part of a terrorist plot," Lankford recently told Fox News. "Then they released his wife but kept him and then later transferred Dr. Brunson to a prison facility."

His daughter also told Fox News that the family is asking for Trump's help.

"We really feel it would be helpful to have the president's support and have him personally arguing for my father's case to get him back home safely to his family," 19-year-old Jacqueline Brunson, a student in North Carolina, told Fox News in a recent interview via Skype.

In his written statement, Andrew Brunson defended his "long public track record" as a pastor, and said the Turkish government falsely accused him of being part of an Islamist terror group – without any proof.

"I have been imprisoned since October 7, 2016. During this time the Turkish government has produced no proof and has rebuffed numerous attempts by the American government to secure my return to the United States," he said. "In fact they are treating the US government with contempt and paying no price for it."

Lankford said the Turkish authorities alleged that Brunson had helped Kurdish refugees (Turkey labels the Kurds an insurgent group) and that the pastor attended a conference sponsored by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accused of instigating the 2016 coup from his Pennsylvania base. But he said "it seemed very odd for them to be able to pick up ... an American citizen that's been serving for more than 20 years in Turkey."

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, has worked for the successful release of other Americans wrongly detained. In the Brunson case, Sekulow said they are working through the United Nations and the Trump administration.