(From Morning Star News to ANS) – A German pastor fighting expulsion from Turkey is hopeful that he may be the exception to a wave of foreign Christian leaders expelled from the country as “threats to national security.”
Though Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has applied the label to pastor Michael Feulner, he told Morning Star News said that a hearing last week gave him hope that a court will strike the “security threat” designation and allow him to stay.
Pastor Feulner said the three judges in the March 22 hearing in Ankara were much more open to reviewing evidence his attorney presented than judges at a February hearing in Istanbul.
“I felt I was heard by the judges,” Pastor Feulner said. “They asked the police department in Ankara if there was anything against me, and there was nothing. For this reason, I am hopeful they will hear our claim.”
One of the judges seemed to have a genuine interest in the merits of the case, he said. In the February hearing, judges gave the pastor’s attorney only 10 minutes to present his case. Then the court decided to withhold ruling on the deportation order until the Ankara court decided if the security designation was justified.
Last week’s court hearing in Ankara was “different from others,” if only because the judges took the time to listen to the case, Pastor Feulner told Morning Star News. Advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) reported that his attorney was able to present evidence that Turkey has long been aware of his ministry without objection, and that the security threat designation is a violation of religious freedom.
The judges then demanded that MIT produce “reasonable grounds” for the designation, according to MEC. Pastor Feulner is asking the court to strike down MIT’s claim that, without publicly issuing evidence, his existence in Turkey is a threat to the country’s national security.
The designation makes Pastor Feulner persona non grata in Turkey and is the impetus behind a deportation order issued in February and an “N82” notation on his passport from the Ministry of the Interior that effectively bars him from reentering the country if he leaves.
Feulner has lived in Turkey and the coastal region of the Sea of Marmara since 1999 when he came as an aid worker to help victims of the earthquake in Izmit. He has been the pastor of Yalova Light House Church, a multi-lingual congregation, since 2003.
Turkish immigration agents in February 2020 arrested Pastor Feulner as he was trying to take a flight out of the country. He was held without charge for 30 hours in an immigration cell at Istanbul Airport. It was there that he learned of his N82 status and was told he had 10 days to leave the country.
His lawyer then opened two court cases: one to appeal the deportation order, and one seeking to remove the designation as a security threat. The deportation order is on hold until the security threat case is decided.
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SOURCE: Assist News Service, Jeff Thompson