WASHINGTON – Religious freedom advocates are speaking out about Turkey's unjust imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, and the state of religious freedom worldwide.
Inhumane conditions, an unjust trial and possibly years in a Turkish prison face Brunson.
"He can never leave his cell, ever, not to eat, not to go to the restroom, not to get some fresh air," said Kristina Arriaga, vice chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Arriaga has pushed for Brunson's release since he was first detained 18 months ago. She is one of just a few people who've seen him in prison.
"He really tries hard to keep his spirits up, but the first cell he was in was only meant for eight people – and he was there with 28 other cell mates," she said.
She says no evidence exists to support charges Brunson committed espionage against Turkey and aided terrorist groups.
"There were no charges filed against him except through secret testimony," Arriaga told CBN News.
"It is so incredibly unjust for this man – whose only crime is to believe in God and tell other people about it – that now he's involved in a game of hostage diplomacy," she said. "Every American is at risk in Turkey."
Brunson, a father of three, has ministered in Turkey for 23 years. At his hearing, he did not accept the charges against him and maintained he was never involved in illegal activities.
"I've never done something against Turkey. I love Turkey. I've been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out," Brunson told the court, according to Reuters. "I do not accept the charges mentioned in the indictment. I was never involved in any illegal activities."
The Turkish government has given no signs that they intend to release Brunson. He'll remain in prison until his trial resumes in May and faces 35 years if convicted.
Former Congressman Frank Wolf says the Church must not remain silent about ongoing international Christian persecution.
"I think it's a very difficult time for religious freedom around the world," the former lawmaker said.
He's particularly concerned about Christianity in the Middle East.
"Before the war broke out, there were 1 ½ million Christians in Iraq. Now they're down to 250,000," he noted. "Why hasn't the Church in the West come to the aid of the Christians who want to return or want to stay?"
Wolf urges churches around the country to actively get involved in helping Christians suffering in the Middle East, warning there may come a day when there are none left.