American Pastor Andrew Brunson has been jailed in the city of Izmir, in western Turkey, on charges of "being a member of an armed terrorist organization".
Brunson -- a U.S. citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina -- has led Protestant churches in Turkey for over 23 years with the knowledge of local authorities, and has raised his family there.
Brunson and his wife, Norine, were summoned to the local police station in Izmir on October 7, 2016 to discuss their application to renew their visas. They thought they would be receiving a long-awaited permanent residence card; instead, they were detained by Turkish police.
While Norine was released 13 days later, Pastor Brunson was informed he would be detained until deportation, based on being a "threat to national security".
American Pastor Andrew Brunson, pictured with his wife Norine, has been jailed in Turkey on spurious charges of "being a member of an armed terrorist organization". "He is being held simply because of his Christian beliefs and is facing grave danger in a Turkish prison," according to the American Center for Law and Justice.
During his 63-day confinement, he was denied access to his Turkish attorney and for part of this time placed in solitary confinement. His belongings, including his glasses, phone, pen and watch, were confiscated. He was also denied a Bible.
On December 8, he was taken to a counter-terrorism center in Izmir; then to court. He was questioned, then on December 9 imprisoned after being charged with "membership in an armed terrorist organization."
Pastor Brunson is now in the Sakran 3 Nolu T Tipi Prison near Izmir. The authorities there declined Gatestone Institute's requests for comment.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents the Brunson family, is working to secure his freedom. "He faces a serious, yet completely unfounded, charge -- 'membership in an armed terrorist organization.' In fact, the charging documents do not present any evidence against him," the ACLJ's Gene Kapp told Gatestone.
"He is being held simply because of his Christian beliefs and is facing grave danger in a Turkish prison," the ACLJ reported.
"A Turkish judge had the option to deport Pastor Andrew, release him on weekly sign-ins at the local police station, or imprison him. The judge chose to remand Pastor Andrew to prison."
Brunson is now allowed visits with his Turkish attorney, said Kapp.
"However, due to an emergency decree in Turkey, those visits are recorded and any notes taken by his attorney are copied. Thus, Pastor Andrew has no attorney-client privilege."
Earlier reports that claimed that Brunson is held in the same cell as Islamic State terrorists were denied by his wife, Norine.
Brunson's future seems uncertain. "No trial date has been set. In recent days, the court has denied an appeal," Kapp said.
Gatestone asked the ACLJ for an interview with Brunson's Turkish lawyer, but Kapp said:
"As this case continues, we are not at liberty to put our representatives in Turkey on the phone with reporters. I am sure you can understand the sensitivity to this case and the nature of the serious charges."
More than 99% of Turkey's population is Muslim; there are about 10,000 Protestant Christians in the country.
According to the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, 100 expatriate Protestants have been prevented from serving in Turkey during the past four years: their visas or residence permits were not extended.
"The government of Turkey -- led by an Islamic party -- has begun increased crackdowns on Christians, and Pastor Andrew, if convicted, may face years in prison based on extremely serious -- and false -- charges," wrote Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ.
An American, Brunson, has been stripped of all of his basic rights and is being held in a Turkish prison despite there being no evidence against him. The global "human rights community" has done nothing to help him. One hopes that the incoming Trump administration will stand up for his freedom.
Uzay Bulut, a journalist born and raised a Muslim in Turkey, is currently based in Washington D.C.