American church leaders held in Turkey, will be deported

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Andrew and Norine Brunson
Andrew and Norine Brunson

Turkish officials in the coastal city of Izmir have been holding American church leaders Andrew and Norine Brunson since October 7th and denying access to them by U.S. consular officials and lawyers.

The Turkish Interior Ministry has also ordered the couple’s deportation within 15 days, stating they constitute a “national security risk,” according to World Watch Monitor (WWM).

The Brunsons have lived in Turkey during the last 20 years and are currently leading the Izmir Resurrection Church, which has an average attendance of 30 to 40.

After they filed an application to renew their visas, they received no response for six months. But on October 7th, they found a written summons ordering them to report with their passports to a local police station. After they arrived they were taken into custody, according to WWM.

Their attorney was denied access and told they did not want a lawyer. He filed a petition to the governor October 12th, saying the American Christians were being held illegally under Turkish laws.

While the U.S. Embassy in Ankara is “following the arrests”, an embassy official declined to comment on the detentions to WWM.

Friends of the Brunsons attempted to send a change of clothing to the couple, but were declined bt the detention centre.

A continuing pattern

The Interior Ministry has issued similar deportation orders against expatriate Christians ministering in Turkey in the last several years. But attorneys have always been able to delay the deportations.

Canadian-American Christian David Byle was detained by the authorities in April 2016, when the Interior Ministry denied his visa renewal and told the immigration authorities to deport him as a “danger to public order”.

Byle ministered many years with a Bible Correspondence Course, doing Bible education and organizing outreaches, according to WWM.

Byle’s deportation order and re-entry ban is on hold because of the recent judicial upheaval, in which thousands of judges and prosecutors were suspended over allegations of support for the Fetullah Gülen movement, accused of orchestrating the summer’s attempted military coup.

Until the cases are resolved, Byle continues to stay in Turkey.

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