Voice of the Persecuted received an update on American Christians, Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine’s situation as of late Friday, October 21. Turkish officials arrested and detained the couple on October 7 in the coastal city of Izmir on grounds of conducting activities constituted as “national security risks”.
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Norine and Andrew have been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a church with the full knowledge of the local authorities. They were summoned to the police department on Friday, October 7, for what they assumed would be questions about their recent residency application. Upon their arrival they were presented with a letter from Ankara labeling them a threat to national security and ordering their deportation. They were immediately detained, their phones were confiscated, and they were completely isolated from the outside world.
The authorities denied repeated requests from their lawyers, the US State Department, and friends to see them or communicate with them in any way. They were explicitly forbidden from having a Bible, and were not allowed to receive books or any change of clothes. Andrew’s glasses and watch were taken away. They were told that their government had forgotten about them and that “hopefully” they would be deported, suggesting that they might simply disappear and never be heard from again.
Norine was released after 12 days (Oct. 19) and verbally told that all charges against her were dropped, but her lawyer has told her that is almost certainly not true given that nothing was put in writing. She was allowed to see Andrew for half an hour on October 20, but was denied any access on October 21. Apart from Norine, Andrew has had no contact with the outside world since October 7.
Norine and Andrew explicitly waived their right to protest the deportation, and yet there has been no deportation to date. The right to legal counsel is guaranteed under Turkish law, and the right of the US State Department to visit detained US citizens is guaranteed by 36(1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which Turkey has ratified. Both of these rights have clearly been violated.
At this point, the priority is to get Norine and Andrew safely out of Turkey, something entirely in keeping with the deportation order. Norine’s current visa expires on November 10, and though she might be forced to leave at any time, she really does not want to leave the country without Andrew. Norine is also concerned that her husband might be transferred from the current immigration center to a prison. Prison in that environment is entirely different from prison in the United States, and often includes people disappearing and without ever being heard from again.
There are far more serious charges supposedly brought against them, but none of it in writing, and none of it with any semblance of transparency or accountability. Those charges cannot be discussed openly, but Norine indicates that it’s difficult to overstate how dangerous the situation is.
The new objective is to see Norine and Andrew safely released from Turkey. They are willing and ready to comply with the deportation order, and yet the authorities continue to hold Andrew. Very little progress has been made through normal channels, so we will now start pressing the issue through Congress, through the media, and through the Turkish embassy.
It is time to press Turkey for Norine and Andrew’s rights to be restored. If the objective was to deport them, why detain them and deny them rights guaranteed under both Turkish and international law? Where are they being held and why have the charges not been stated in writing? Why hold them in isolation and confiscate things like Andrew’s glasses?
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As always, your continued prayers are much appreciated, and we know that God will cause good to come from this.
ACT NOW by
PRAYING and sharing this urgent prayer request:
- Pray that Andrew would be released from detention
- Pray that the authorities would not discriminate against Christians in Turkey;
- Pray for religious freedom in Turkey.
Contacting your elected officials:
- asking them to take immediate and serious action for the release of these two Americans, our brother and sister in Christ Jesus.