An American missionary has now entered his second year in jail in Turkey on false terrorism-related charges despite calls from top U.S. officials for his immediate release, and there are no indications that the Turkish government will bend to calls to free him.
Although U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have already spoken about Pastor Andrew Brunson's case with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there is no sign that their efforts will bear fruit. The Turkish leader even suggested last month that the jailed American pastor could be free if the U.S. extradited Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who was suspected of being the mastermind of a failed military coup last year, CNS News detailed.
Just a few days ago, representatives of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom visited Pastor Brunson in jail in Izmir. The vice chairs said the missionary had lost more than 50 pounds because of his stressful situation.
"He lives in a world of psychic and physical dislocation," said USCIRF vice chairwoman Sandra Jolley. "Despite a public veneer of a legal process, the truth is Pastor Brunson has had no due process, no true information about the charges against him, unreliable court dates, and no idea when he ever again will see his children or his country."
Kristina Arriaga, the other USCIRF vice chair, maintained Brunson's innocence in the charges against him. She also pushed for the pastor's release.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Turkey have both halted their non-immigrant visa services after an American consulate employee was arrested in Istanbul last week. This means that Turks temporarily cannot travel to the U.S. and vice versa, CNN reported.
Metin Topuz, the second U.S. state employee to be arrested in Turkey this year, has been charged over his alleged ties with Gulen. The U.S. mission in Ankara issued a statement explaining that the recent development has led Washington to "reassess" Turkey's commitment to the security of American personnel.