Andrew Brunson’s former church members are among witnesses who have testified against the North Carolina pastor, who is facing the possibility of 35 years of imprisonment in Turkey, a U.S. government official said.
Kristina Arriaga, vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom who attended Brunson’s last court hearing, detailed what she saw in the July 18 hearing in Aliaga during a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“Pastor Brunson sat there while he heard former church members, people probably that he baptized, people that he had tea with, testify against him,” Arriaga, who was seated next to Brunson’s wife during the hearing, explained.
When asked why former congregants would testify against Brunson, who served the church in Izmir for over two decades, she replied, “I imagine these people were under tremendous pressure to keep their jobs or feed their families. We don’t know what kind of threats they were under.”
As Brunson is falsely accused of involvement with an Islamic group blamed for staging the 2016 coup attempt against the Erdogan government, those who have attended the hearings have spoken out about the fact that prosecution witnesses have not provided any firsthand information to substantiate the government’s charges against the pastor.
Many feel and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that Brunson is being held as a political hostage for the extradition of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the 2016 coup attempt and is now in a self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
One American church leader who has attended Brunson’s court hearings told The Christian Post after the July 18 trial that the prosecution brought forward three moore “false” witnesses to testify against Brunson.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith