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Free Pastor Brunson: Activists Urge Trump to Do More to Bring US Missionary Home From Turkish Prison

06-20-2018
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More than a dozen people gathered outside the White House on Wednesday to call on President Donald Trump to bring American Pastor Andrew Brunson home.

Brunson has been behind bars in Turkey since October 2016. He was charged with espionage and accused of helping terrorist groups.

He had been a missionary in Turkey for more than 20 years.

"We are very concerned about Pastor Brunson. We know him and he is being used as a political pawn. The charges against him are false," Dede Laugesen with Save the Persecuted Christians said.

Likewise, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback called Brunson's arrest "politically motivated" and said the 62-page indictment is made up.

Brownback said at one point Turkish officials accused Brunson of association with terrorists because his daughter sent him a photo of a Middle Eastern food dish the Turkish government says is a favorite of terrorists. 

Brownback says much of the case against Brunson is based on accusations from anonymous sources.

Brunson's trial, which began in April, is recessed until May and will resume July 18.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington continue to push Turkey to release the American pastor.

On Monday evening, the US Senate passed a defense policy bill that would delay the planned sale of more than 100 F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and is calling for the Defense Department to come up with a plan to end Turkish participation in making the jets.

The bill links those steps to Turkey's planned purchase of an anti-aircraft missile system from Russia and to Brunson's continued imprisonment. 

"Congress will not tolerate any foreign government's efforts to use United States citizens for political leverage," the bill says.

The measure still needs approval from the US House and President Trump to become law.

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