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Religious Freedom Commissioners Hopeful American Pastor Jailed in Turkey Will Be Freed

Family: Turkey Holding North Carolina Pastor Prisoner for Being a Christian
ACLJ/Brunson Family

Two members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said on Wednesday that the news that Turkish authorities have placed American pastor Andrew Brunson in house arrest is a good sign that his almost two-year detention from alleged terrorism charges could be coming to a close.

The members made their remarks on Wednesday during the State Department’s first-ever ministerial on religious freedom, which has repeatedly highlighted the plight of Brunson and his family.

“I do think this is a step in him being released and I know first-hand that the president and vice president have continued to work on this since his last court hearing,” Commissioner Tony Perkins told Breitbart News.“They were committed to getting him out.”

Perkins, who is also the president of the Family Research Council, said he does not think it a mere coincidence that Turkey made the announcement while the first-ever U.S.-led ministerial on advancing global religious liberty was taking place at the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC.

Commissioner Gary Bauer agreed that Brunson’s move from jail to house arrest is a positive development.

“I think it’s a very helpful sign,” Bauer told Breitbart News. “I’m a little worried that his health may have declined enough that they put him in house arrest because they didn’t want something terrible to happen in prison.”

“On the other hand, I know that behind the scenes there are some very important things happening from a number of different directions and I’m hoping the government of Turkey understands that this is not a sore that they should allow to fester if they want to have a decent relationship with the United States,” Bauer said.

Breitbart News has reported extensively on Brunson, including his history as a Christian missionary in Turkey and how he became entangled in legal proceedings against him.

Brunson was arrested as part of a purge under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following a failed coup attempt against him in July 2016.

The president blamed Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for organizing the coup and has demanded that the United States extradite Gulen, who now lives in the United States.

Brunson could face up to 35 years in prison for his alleged involvement with Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist, U.S.-designated terrorist organization. 

Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have repeatedly called for Brunson’s release and warned the Turkish government that sanctions could be put in place if the pastor is not freed.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about Brunson’s fate.

“We’re working diligently on that case and, frankly, every place an American is held,” Pompeo noted, adding that the Brunson case illustrates why advancing religious liberty around the world is so important.

“This is one example of why religious freedom matters, and so we’re going to have over 80 delegations here at the State Department in a handful of days, 40 of my counterparts, foreign ministers,” Pompeo said in the interview.

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