The Curious Case of Andrew Brunson

The US administration is targeting Turkey’s economy over its refusal to handover the evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.

Mr. Brunson is accused of engaging in espionage and of cooperating with PKK and FETO terrorists by the Turkish judiciary.

Turkish President Erdogan has adamantly resisted requests by the US to extradite Andrew Brunson, stating that this would interfere with the state’s judicial process.

It is ironic that Erdogan is often accused of disrespecting the doctrine of the separation of powers, yet, the US administration is asking Erdogan to do exactly that – if anything, they need to be called out for interfering with a sovereign state’s judicial process.

Not taking ‘no’ for an answer, the Trump administration has reacted aggressively, applying undue economic pressures and threatening to intensify these pressures if their demands are not met.

So far, the US has imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers and has increased the tariffs on imported Turkish steel and aluminium. This has unsettled the markets and caused the Turkish Lira to depreciate rapidly; losing more than 20% of its value in under a week.

These sanctions have also had unexpected consequences, negatively affecting the stock markets around the world. An “economic hit” on Turkey is turning into a global bloodbath and has the potential to trigger another global financial crisis.

What’s the real story behind this case? Why have these two allies locked horns with each other?

The case against pastor Andrew Brunson is dismissed by the international media as a witch-hunt or an attempt by Turkey to take a hostage in an effort to have leverage when negotiating with the US, specifically with respect to extraditing Fetullah Gulen.

The Turkish government has provided ample evidence showing Gulen’s involvement in the 2016 military coup attempt, yet the US has taken no action against him and he continues to enjoy a life of luxury in Pennsylvania. The coup attempt resulted in the murder of 251 Turkish citizens and injured more than 4000. Turkey sees the US’ inaction against Gulen as a national tragedy.

Let’s review the case against Andrew Brunson prior to jumping to conclusions about his innocence or guilt:

  • Members of his own church have testified against him in the court of law
  • Brunson is accused of keeping a map of “Kurdistan” that encroaches on Turkey’s borders and of recruiting or co-operating with PKK militants by enticing them with such displays.
  • Transcripts of his phone conversations have been released showing him to be grief-stricken knowing that the 2016 military coup attempt was not successful. According to the transcripts he proclaims that they will be nonetheless victorious. These conversations took place with someone named Dan Slade, on 21st of July 2016.
  • Transcripts further reveal that Andrew Brunson was most likely in touch with Kurdish terrorist groups, in one particular conversation we learn that he was in the city of Suruc (in the proximity of the Syrian border), when the terrorist organisation PKK was carrying out militant activities in Kobane and Diyarbakir. Speaking to someone named Jane, he warns her that many people lost their lives and that she should return.
  • He’s accused of helping a PKK militant escape out of Turkey
  • A number of Gulenists’ phone signals were mapped out and they coincided with the movements of pastor Brunson
  • He’s accused of communicating with members from the Gulenist terror organisation.

The list of charges is long and quite serious. It’s incredibly one-sided to automatically assume that he’s innocent or, by the same token, that he’s guilty. Andrew Brunson’s case needs to play out in the courts, the trial should be transparent, and the proper judicial process should take its place.

It is therefore unbecoming of the US administration to accuse Turkey of taking Andrew Brunson as hostage. Furthermore, it is beneath contempt for the US administration to bully a NATO ally by imposing sanctions unfairly and unjustly.

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