A pastor with roots in North Carolina who has been accused of aiding a failed 2016 coup d’etat in Turkey and has been held in prison ever since has lost 50 pounds amid deteriorating health, says U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who visited the pastor Monday.
Tillis visited with Pastor Andrew Brunson at the Buca Prison in Izmir, Turkey, according to a statement from the senator’s office. Brunson, who is originally from Black Mountain, has lived in Turkey for the past 20 years. He was detained Oct. 7, 2016, after the failed coup and accused of aiding the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen's network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which Turkey accuses of masterminding the coup.
“Pastor Brunson is strengthened by his love for his family and his faith in God, but his health has deteriorated,” Tillis said. “He has lost 50 pounds and spends 24 hours a day in a cell with limited human contact. He is attempting to visit a doctor this week, which involves him being handcuffed and transported with several armed guards. He fears the possibility that the American government accepts the indictment and forgets about him, which we will not allow to happen.”
Tillis said Brunson has been falsely accused and is a “political pawn” by the Turkish government.
“There should be no mistake that Pastor Brunson is the victim of false accusations, and we call upon the Turkish authorities to honestly and transparently review his indictment,” Tillis said. “Pastor Brunson is being used as a political pawn by some elements of the Turkish government. These elements seek to undercut the longstanding partnership between the United States and Turkey, in which our two nations have enjoyed close diplomatic, economic, and military ties. It is vital that our nations continue this partnership and continue to work together to pursue our common interests.”