Andrew Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has lived both lawfully and peacefully in Turkey since 1993. He and his wife have built a life and raised a family in southwestern Turkey, where they ran a Protestant church and have actively prayed and served the citizens of Turkey for more than two decades.

Pastor Brunson was arrested and jailed following a failed coup attempt in July 2016. The United States has condemned the coup and respects the legitimate efforts of the Turkish government to ensure that those involved are brought to justice. While the United States government supports justice, we cannot support the Turkish government’s effort to go beyond legitimate action by detaining innocent civilians with a lack of evidence to support the claims. Pastor Andrew Brunson is a victim of this unjust system.

Today, the American pastor is facing up to 35 years behind bars on false accusations that he aided terrorist groups and spied against Turkey. The list of accusations against Pastor Brunson are absurd, and it is yet another example of the threat posed to religious freedom around the world. That is why Congressman Harper signed a letter along with over 100 other Members of the House of Representatives to urge Turkish President Erdogan to release Pastor Brunson to be reunited with his family.

The text of the correspondence is below: 

Dear Mr. President,

It has now been over a year and a half since Turkish authorities detained Pastor Andrew Brunson, a law-abiding American citizen resident in Turkey since 1993, for alleged involvement in terrorism.

Pastor Brunson’s detention and formal arrest followed the Turkish government’s imposition of a State of Emergency after a violent coup attempt in July 2016 rightly opposed by Turks across the political spectrum. The United States has condemned the coup and respects the legitimate efforts of the Turkish government to ensure its perpetrators face justice and the Turkish nation is protected from any repetition of the coup attempt. The Congress supports the ongoing efforts to strengthen law enforcement cooperation between U.S. agencies and their Turkish counterparts, including with regard to investigating alleged participants in the coup plot.

However, we are deeply disturbed that the Turkish government has gone beyond legitimate action against the coup plotters to undermine Turkey’s own rule of law and democratic traditions. Under the State of Emergency, tens of thousands of Turkey’s own citizens as well as some citizens of the United States and other countries have been arrested, dismissed from employment or otherwise seen their lives destroyed on vague charges and dubious evidence. These actions by the government of Turkey are inconsistent with the commitment to law and justice that have historically been hallmarks of Turkish democracy.

That the Turkish government has consistently ignored bipartisan expressions of concern from the Congress has also been cause for concern. Nonetheless, we chose to respect the working of the Turkish judicial system and await a just outcome.

On March 13, 2018, Turkish authorities issued an indictment alleging and purportedly detailing Pastor Bronson’s offenses. It is an absurd collection of anonymous accusations, flights of fantasy, and random character assassination. It is an insult not only to an unjustly imprisoned individual, but to the traditions of Turkish jurisprudence. That a Turkish court could accept such a document as the basis for prosecution removes any shred of doubt that Andrew Brunson, as well as other American citizens and Turkish employees of the U.S. Government detained under the State of Emergency, is being used as a political pawn by elements of the Turkish government bent on destroying the longstanding partnership between two great nations. Moreover, the suggestion in the indictment that the actions of Pastor Brunson, to explain his religious convictions to others, were somehow meant to undermine the Turkish state brings a new and deeply disturbing dimension to the case. It should trouble all Turks justly proud of Turkey’s centuries-old tradition of welcoming believers of all faiths.

The United States Government, and millions of Americans deeply concerned by the Brunson case, have been patient, in the hope that justice would be done and Pastor Brunson would be reunited with his family. The signatories of this letter have concluded that other measures will be necessary to ensure that the Government of Turkey respects the right of law-abiding citizens and employees of the United States to travel to, reside in, and work in Turkey without fear of ·persecution.

Congressman Gregg Harper Press Release