Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is willing to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained in Turkey for one year and accused of espionage – if US authorities hand over Turkish Islamic preacher Fetullah Gulen, in exile in the United States since 1999. The Turkish government says Gulen was the mastermind behind the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. According to Fides news, the proposed exchange was prefigured by Erdogan himself during a meeting with members of the Turkish police force on September 28 at his presidential palace in Ankara. On that occasion Erdogan explicitly linked the possible release of Brunson to the extradition request of Gulen.
The report continued that Erdogan’s appeal was not taken into consideration by the US administration. During a daily press briefing on September 28, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked a question about a swap for Brunson.
MS NAUERT: In terms of Fethullah Gulen, who is here in the United States, we have received several requests for his extradition from the Turkish Government related to him. Though – that is something – we haven’t talked about this for a while. We continue to evaluate it, take a look at the materials that the Turkish Government has provided us. I don’t have anything new for you on the subject of that.
In terms of Pastor Brunson, that is a very important issue for us, to try to get Pastor Brunson home. It is something that the President had raised with Mr. Erdogan not too terribly long ago. The State Department has been in as close of contact as we can be with Pastor Brunson. We last were able to visit him on September the 18th. That’s a new bit of news. The last time that we had visited him was – let’s see, it was August the 24th. And we just – we continue to advocate for his release. He was wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey, and we’d like to see him brought home.
QUESTION: Just one more question.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: We don’t usually hear this kind of prisoner swap or hostage diplomacy between the allies, Turkey’s ally. We hear about Iran or North Korea. What’s your view that this kind of offer, coming from your ally?
MS NAUERT: Look, I can’t imagine that we would go down that road. We have received extradition requests for him. I have nothing new for you on that. We continue to call for Pastor Brunson’s release. Source
Pastor Brunson, former head of the Evangelical Church of the Resurrection in Izmir (Smyrne Diriliş Kilisesi), was summoned in October 2016 together with his wife, Norine, by the Immigration Office. They were initially told to leave the country, because Andrew was accused of receiving funds from abroad to fund missionary initiatives that Turkey claimed would endanger the security of the Country with their activities. Later, the Turkish press reported that the decree of expulsion for the Evangelical pastor had been transformed into arrest after a secret witness accused him of belonging to the so-called FETO (Turkish acronym of “Fethullahnista terrorist organization”). In jail, Brunson had received visits from senior US embassy officials in Turkey, and also US President Donald Trump had demanded the release of the Evangelical pastor during the meeting last May at the White House with Turkish President Erdogan. Last August, after Trump’s intervention, Brunson was charged with crimes even worse than the ones he had been accused of in the past, and was imprisoned in a high security prison where some are accused of being among the top officials responsible for the failed coup in 2016. (Agenzia Fides, 2/10/2017)
Pastor Brunson wife reminds us of her husband’s 1-year imprisonment and to pray for her husband’s well-being and release.
“October 7 will be the one year mark of Andrew’s imprisonment and I am so grateful to the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) for issuing a Call to Prayer and Fasting for the weekend of October 7-8. Here is what they say:
“We are asking everyone in the EPC to consider fasting and praying for Andrew on Saturday, October 7, and for our churches to pray for Andrew and Norine during their worship services on Sunday, October 8.”
I know some of you have done quite a bit of fasting and we are so very grateful. Maybe others would be willing to join this Oct 7-8 time.
I recently heard of someone who is fasting coffee until Andrew is released! It has reminded him to pray for Andrew frequently, but has also provided many opportunities to get more prayer for Andrew when he turns down coffee and explains why! All of this is so precious to us.
And in a prior request,
We continue to need your prayers – for miraculous release and for peace that passes understanding to guard our hearts and minds.
Please join us in remembering this dear brother and his family in prayer with great hope.