An American pastor who has been jailed on bogus terrorism charges in Turkey for more than five months is pleading with President Trump to help secure his release.
“I plead with my government — with the Trump Administration — to fight for me,” Andrew Brunson wrote in a letter to the Trump administration from his jail cell near Izmir.
Brunson, a North Carolina native, has been in custody since October after he and his wife were detained on immigration violation charges. At the time, the Brunsons were operating a small Christian church in Izmir, a city on Turkey’s western cost. They have lived in Turkey for 23 years.
Brunson’s wife, Norine, was soon released, but the pastor remained in custody and soon saw his charges upgraded to a terrorism rap.
Brunson has no known ties to terrorist groups, and the Turkish government has not produced any evidence to show that he does. Prosecutors have suggested in court hearings that Brunson is being held on suspicion of being a follower of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in self-exile in Pennsylvania.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has labeled Gulen a terrorist and believes he was behind a failed coup attempt in July.
In his letter, which was given to U.S. embassy officials during a recent meeting with Brunson, the pastor calls himself a political prisoner and says that the Turkish government should face consequences for jailing him without cause.
“Will the Turkish government face no consequence for stubbornly continuing to hold an American citizen as a political prisoner?” Brunson asks in the letter, which was published by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a non-profit group helping the pastor.