Protestant pastor arrested in Turkey ‘jailed with ISIL fighters’

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Andrew Craig Brunson, an American pastor of a Protestant church in İzmir who was arrested on Dec. 9 on charges of links to a failed coup on July 15, is being kept in a jail in Turkey with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants, a member of his church in the US said.

Speaking with Channel 2 during an interview on Tuesday, Catherine Sykes, a member Dunwoody’s Life Center ministries, said Brunson’s life is in grave danger and as he is being kept with ISIL fighters.

Sykes, who traveled to Turkey last month, said: “He is in a Turkish prison with ISIS [also know as ISIL] fighters, Afghani rebels and others who have created problems for the Turkish government.

Hopefully, we can get the flood of response to bring him home, and our president will act, our state department will use all pressure that it can,” Sykes added.

On Dec. 9, a court in İzmir ruled for the arrest of American pastor Brunson, a 23-year resident of Turkey, on charges of links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding the failed coup on July 15.

Forty-eight year-old Brunson and his wife Norine were detained in İzmir on Oct. 7 under Interior Ministry deportation orders. Although his wife was released on Oct. 19 and given permission to remain in Turkey, Rev. Brunson had been held at a detention center in Izmir.

The court ruled for the arrest of the American cleric on charges of “posing a threat to national security.” Brunson had survived an attack in 2011 while in the garden of a church in İzmir.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, a global civil society movement inspired by the views of the US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The government, under an emergency decree, decided to take over hundreds companies, seized the assets of businessmen and shut down institutions linked to the movement.

Despite the fact that Gülen denied the accusation and called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the Turkish government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

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