Imprisoned NC pastor faces more ‘false and ridiculous’ charges in Turkey, group says

Wednesday, 20 September 2017, 03:22:24 PM. Despite Donald Trump’s appeal to set him free, a Christian pastor from North Carolina faces more “false and ridiculous” charges in Turkey, group says.

Despite President Donald Trump’s appeal to set him free, a Christian pastor from Black Mountain in the North Carolina mountains faces more “false and ridiculous” charges while imprisoned in Turkey, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.

Andrew Brunson was originally jailed on Dec. 9 on a false terrorism charge, according to the not-for-profit religious corporation based in Washington, D.C. He was held without charges since Oct. 7.

[RELATED: Pastor from Black Mountain jailed in Turkey on ‘terrorism’ charges]

[RELATED: NC pastor still in Turkish prison despite appeal by President Trump]

He also was recently charged with “gathering state secrets for espionage, attempting to overthrow the Turkish parliament and government, and to change the constitutional order,” The Wall Street Journal reported, quoting the local Anadolu Agency.

“These ‘new’ charges, coming 322 days after his initial arrest in October of last year, are obviously just as false and ridiculous as the original charge of membership in an armed terrorist organization,” the American Center for Law and Justice said. “Disturbingly, the new charges are even more serious than the original charge and carry stiff sentences, if convicted.

“Furthermore, Pastor Andrew’s file continues to remain sealed, making it impossible to defend against the unknown.”

Brunson repeated to the judge hearing his case that he has been in Turkey for 23 years “for one purpose only. To tell about Jesus Christ,” according to the center.

The latest charges were announced a day before President Recep Erdogan announced two new emergency decrees giving him “a slew of new powers,” the center said.

In May, Trump raised Brunson’s incarceration when he met with Erdogan, according to a May 16 news release from the White House. Trump asked that the Turkish government “expeditiously” return Brunson to the United States, according to the release.

Trump met with Erdogan “to discuss how to further strengthen the deep and diverse relationship between our two countries,” the White House statement said.

“President Trump reiterated the commitment of the United States to the security of our NATO ally Turkey and the need to work together to confront terrorism in all its forms.”

In his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday, Trump praised Turkey for accepting refugees, but he made no mention of Brunson’s imprisonment.

On Saturday, Brunson’s wife, Norine, posted on Facebook that Trump and Erdogan were scheduled to meet sometime this week.

“May our case come up and find favor. Please pray that President Erdogan would use the authority he was given by a new decree to return prisoners to their home countries on Andrew's behalf! May the Lord deliver us from fear and give us peace.”

In a recent statement, the American Center for Law and Justice said Brunson “has been unjustly separated from his family for far too long. He should not have to endure even one more day in a Turkish prison. He should be released immediately and returned to the United States to be reunited with his family.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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