By Dani Miskell, Special to ASSIST News Service
IZMIR, TURKEY (ANS – October 19, 2016) — World Watch Monitor has reported of an arrest made on Friday October 7th of the American Christians, Andrew and Norine Brunson. The couple has been detained by Turkish officials in the coastal city of Izmir on grounds of conducting activities constituted as “national security risks.”
The Turkish Interior Ministry has both issued the arrest and subsequently ordered the Brunson’s to be deported within 15 days. They have declined to release any further details of the accusations they’re making on the Brunson’s. They’re declining to respond because official papers from Ankara, the Republic’s capital, hadn’t arrived yet.
The couple has been denied access to the U.S. consular officials and lawyers. Authorities at the Migration Administration Detention Facility sentenced them. This also is the location of where the Brunson’s are currently being held until their deportation.
According to Barbara G. Baker of WWM, the Brunson’s had been residents of Turkey for the last 20 years. They served as leaders of a small Protestant Church known as the Izmir Resurrection Church, in the Alsancak district. The couple had filed a routine application back in April to renew their residence visas. They never received a response until six months later, when they came home and found a written summons requesting them to report to a local police station, along with their passports. They did so on Friday October the 7th and were then immediately taken into custody.
In the last week, several attempts have been made on the Brunson’s behalf. One lawyer requested visitation but was denied access because he didn’t have legal authorization. He returned with an affidavit, but the officials claimed that the couple had already signed a statement declaring they didn’t want representation. They have yet to produce any written statements claiming this.
A second lawyer decided to act on the Brunson’s behalf and filed a petition to the Izmir governor, on Wednesday October 12th. It protested that the stipulations made against the American Christians were illegal under Turkish detention laws.
A member of the Turkish Parliament has also been reported to inquire about the handling of the couple’s detention.
Members of the Izmir Resurrection Church have attempted to send a change of clothes to the Brunson’s but were rebuffed by the detention center. The Brunson’s are reported be in the forties.
One of the church’s leaders reported that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara had confirmed of their involvement in “following the arrests,” but embassy officials are declining to comment at this time.
The Brunson’s current state is reportedly not the first of its kind. It’s a continuing pattern. There have been many cases similar to theirs over the past few years, where the Interior Ministry issued deportation orders against expatriate Christians living in Turkey. Others were more fortunate to have been permitted official access to their lawyers. There have been reports of those granted temporary stays of deportation along with a formal court appeal.
Another case similar to that of the Brunson’s is Canadian-American Christian, David Byle. Byle was taken into custody back in April. The Interior Ministry had also denied his application to renew his residence visa, and advised the immigration authorities to deport him on grounds of being a “danger to public order”. Byle has been helping educate the Turkish public about the Bible. He organizes legal street outreaches on behalf of a Bible Correspondence Course. His lawyers filed three cases against his arrest, deportation order, and re-entry ban. At this present time, they remain on hold due to the Turkish judicial anarchy in honor of supporting the Fetullah Gulen movement. Byle continues to live in Turkey during this interim.
First reports of the Interior Ministry’s harassment on American Christians date back to 2014. Patrick Jensen’s account occurred in September of 2014 while he was serving as an American Protestant Pastor in the Gaziantep City of southeast Turkey. He had been serving for nine years until the Interior Ministry blacklisted him two years ago and ordered for imminent deportation. It was overturned 2 months later by the Gaziantep Administrative Courts judicial decision.
The option of judicial review is being avoided in the case of the Brunsons’ deportation. They continue to be refused any legal rights in order to prevent their forced removal from Turkey. The recent failed military coup, on July 15th, has left Turkey in a “state of emergency.” Now the government in Ankara has had free rein to loosely implement policies and directives. Even if they have violated the principle rule of law, they are allowed free reign and their regulations aren’t expected to expire until mid-January 2017.
“They are never going to be happy with any foreigners doing Christian work in this country,” one Turkish church leader told Barbara G. Baker of World Watch Monitor. “So we have to take these government actions in proportion, realizing there are so many countries in this region where expatriate Christians can’t even go openly.”