A Christian pastor from Black Mountain faces a sentence of life in prison in Turkey after a new “terrorism” indictment against him last week.
The independent, bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said it “strongly condemns” the indictment that charges Pastor Andrew Brunson with “leadership in a terrorist organization.”
The Trump administration should redouble “its ongoing efforts” to secure Brunson’s release, commission vice chairwomen Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga said in a statement. “No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American,” they said, while calling on Congress to impose targeted sanctions “against those involved in this miscarriage of justice.”
On March 9, Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling the allegations against her father “absurd” and noting that her family “has suffered greatly during the past year and half,” according to the commission.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have called for Brunson’s release, most recently Tillerson during a visit to Ankara last month.
Brunson is being held as a pawn in a hostage negotiation, said David Curry of Open Doors USA, a non-profit organization that supports Christians in countries that persecute them for their beliefs.
Turkey is trying to get the United States to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, someone Turkish President Recep Erdoğan believes is at least partially responsible for the failed coup in 2016, Curry told the Mission Network News.