IZMIR, Turkey (World Watch Monitor, TAB) — A Turkish judge sent Andrew Brunson to prison in Izmir, Turkey, on Dec. 9 — 64 days after the American pastor and his wife, Norine, were detained Oct. 7 under Interior Ministry deportation orders.
Although Norine Brunson was released Oct. 19 and given an extended permit to remain in the country even though her visa had expired, Andrew Brunson has been held since Oct. 20 at the Harmandali Detention Centre on the northern edge of Izmir.
The 48-year-old pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church was transferred overnight Dec. 8 to a counter-terrorism center before being brought before an Izmir court Dec. 9 for interrogation.
The Protestant pastor heard for the first time at the hearing the allegations filed against him, which apparently prompted his arrest and lengthy detention. According to the officiating judge, the “terrorism” charges came from a “secret informant.” The court ruled that the files on Andrew Brunson’s case would continue to remain inaccessible to his lawyer, who had not been allowed to meet him until the Dec. 9 hearing.
In April, after filing a routine application to renew their residence visas, the Brunsons had received no response for six months. When they arrived at their home Oct. 7 they found a written summons requesting them to report to the local police station with their passports. On arrival they were immediately taken into custody.
According to Norine Brunson, the pastor’s lawyer confirmed that her husband was accused of links with the Fetullah Gulen movement, which is accused by Ankara, the capital of Turkey, of instigating a failed military coup against the Turkish government in July. The pastor is now incarcerated at Izmir’s Sakran 3 Nolu T Tipi Prison.
In a wide-ranging crackdown to identify and prosecute the suspected coup plotters and their sympathizers, the Turkish authorities have suspended or jailed tens of thousands of judges, prosecutors, military personnel, journalists and educators on terrorism charges over the past five months.
The Brunsons, who have three children studying in the U.S., have lived in Turkey for the past 23 years.