Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, N.C., center, waves as he leaves a prison outside Izmir, Turkey, on July 25, 2018, to go to house arrest. (DHA via AP)

Pompeo: US ‘sparing no effort’ for return of pastor detained in Turkey

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reiterated Trump administration promises to continue to work for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held in Turkey for almost two years.

“We are sparing no effort to return Pastor Brunson home to the United States,” Pompeo said Friday (Sept. 21) at the annual Values Voter Summit attended mostly by Christian conservatives from across the country. “The work is important. He has been wrongly held and his proper place is to be able to return here to once again practice his faith in our great nation.”

In August, the Trump administration sanctioned two high-level officials in Turkey for what it says is their role in the case of Brunson, who faces terrorism-related charges.

Pompeo’s speech, which was met by applause, was part of a focus on international religious liberty on the first day of the three-day summit organized by Family Research Council Action.

Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline Furnari, spoke shortly after Pompeo’s remarks during a panel discussion on the issue. She said her family awaits her imprisoned father’s next court date on Oct. 12. He has been charged with “Christianization,” which he denies.

She recounted how her father, who has lived in Turkey since 1993 and pastored a small Protestant church there, was called to a police station where he thought he would be reapplying for a residence permit. He was detained, denied a lawyer for two months, and later imprisoned in a cell made for eight that sometimes held 22 people. He has been on house arrest since July.

She said typically non-Turks might be deported but not imprisoned the way her father was.

“The entire last two years has really shown that this is just baseless charges,” she said. “It’s a sham trial and my dad is being used as a bargaining chip and suffering for Jesus Christ.”

Since her father’s detention, Furnari said her family has marked her college graduation, her marriage, and the death of one of her grandfathers.

“Throughout this entire time, my dad has been unable to be with his family,” she said. “It’s what has hurt him the most, is having that time stolen from him — watching his children grow up, helping my brothers make their decisions as they go on in life. It’s been a painful time and we’re just ready for it all to be over.”

She spoke of her father’s reliance on his faith and said it led him to publicly forgive those who testified against him and to say “Blessed am I as I am slandered” during his July 18 court appearance.

“It is an incredible testimony and I cannot be more grateful for his example,” she said, drawing applause. “And at this point, all that we can do is just continue praying. I ask that all of you pray for my dad’s release and pray for others who are persecuted for their faith.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the 2018 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Vice President Mike Pence added in a speech on Saturday at the summit that “we will never stop fighting” until Brunson is freed, drawing applause and cheers. “We will not relent until Pastor Andrew Brunson is home with his family in the United States of America.”

In his remarks, Pompeo drew a standing ovation when he said: “Far and away, the greatest highlight to date of my job as secretary of state was bringing home three Americans from captivity in North Korea.”

He read a notecard he received from the former prisoners that quoted Psalm 126 about the laughter of returned captives.

“On the day Pastor Brunson returns just like the men I spoke of a bit ago,” Pompeo said, “again our hearts will be filled with joy.”

Some former diplomatic officials questioned whether it was appropriate for the secretary of state to appear at a summit that traditionally features Republican luminaries and is viewed as being partisan.

“There were some folks who didn’t want me to come here today,” Pompeo said. “But it seems to me only natural that an American secretary of state would come to talk to you about America’s values and interests. And I know that religious freedom is important to each of you and it’s important for me to be here to talk to you.”

At a summit gala on Saturday, participants honored former Republican congressman Frank Wolf with a leadership award. FRC Action President Tony Perkins, a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said Wolf, who 20 years ago sponsored the International Religious Freedom Act, was recognized for his longtime advocacy “for those that are being persecuted simply because of their faith.”


  1. USA (Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State): “We are sparing no effort to return Pastor Brunson home to the United States. The work is important. He has been wrongly held and his proper place is to be able to return here to once again practice his faith in our great nation.”

    TURKEY (İsmail Rüştü Cirit, President of the Court of Cassation; and Abdulhamit Gül, Justice Minister): “The foreign states, which have the claim to be the bearer of the ideals of democracy human rights and the state of law, should first respect the sovereignty of Turkish Republic, which is under the protection of international law. … The members of the judiciary will continue to stand still against any difficulties, without minding any voices other than law and conscience in this period as well by keeping its independence and objectivity. While they are working unselfishly within the boundaries of law and justice, we will try to work on the reform policies that will enable our people to benefit from the services of the judiciary and justice system at a higher quality and standard.”

    Ggggooooaaaallll !!!!

    Turkey 1:0 USA

  2. Truth be told: In Pompeo’s statement, “Far and away, the greatest highlight to date of my job as secretary of state was bringing home three Americans from captivity in North Korea”, he deliberately failed to mention that one of them, by the name of Kim Dong-chul, was indeed a real Anti-North Korea spy.

    Source: Tim Schwarz, Will Ripley and James Griffiths, “Exclusive: North Korea reveals alleged U.S. prisoner to CNN in Pyongyang”, CNN, January 11, 2016.

  3. That is a lot of jail time for a victimless crime. He might as well have smoked a joint. –Respect the laws of the land or do not go to another Country. Turkey is a signatory to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 19: “There shall be NO crime or punishment EXCEPT as provided for in the Sharia.”

    Article 24: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia.”

    Article 25: “The Islamic Sharia is the ONLY source of reference for the explanation or clarification of ANY of the articles of this Declaration.”

    Maybe the defense should appeal to the 57 member Countries of the OIC (the Organization of Islamic Cooperation). Don’t appeal to God, because God is just a concept.

  4. Turkey’s is still more or less a secular state.

    Its Constitution Article 4: declares the immovability the founding principles of the Republic defined in the first three Articles:
    1. “secularism, social equality, equality before the law”

  5. I guess his bribe wasn’t as big as the one paid to North Korea for the detained Americans.

  6. I asked my Muslim colleague, Which is the most secularized Islamic country today?


    (Psst, peepsqueek ain’t that guy.)

  7. My question is if this man was a non christian would they still be trying to get him home?? I don’t think so given the evangelical protestant nature of the Trump administration. I’m not sure if he was black they would still be trying so hard. If he was a black atheist we wouldn’t have ever heard about him.

  8. You’re wrong, my Atheist F[r]iend, as wrong as Secular Bigotry can be!

    “In April [2017], [the Trump] Administration negotiated the release of aid worker Aya Hijazi, who had been held for three years in an Egyptian prison. Trump sent a plane to pick her up and tweeted a photo montage of him and Hijazi with Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA’ playing in the background. He has boasted about the deal in interviews, saying it took him just 10 minutes in the Oval Office with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to secure Hijazi’s release. ‘President Obama tried and failed many times over three years, but we were able to get this done in a very short period and that is an amazing victory for Aya and her family,’ Trump tells TIME … Obama never invited al-Sisi … [but] even though Trump’s Oval Office sit-down with al-Sisi resulted in Hijazi’s release, critics feared the invitation signaled the Administration’s blessing of the regime.”

    Source: Elizabeth Dias, “The Art of the Hostage Deal”, Time, July 27, 2017.

  9. I can’t find what religion she is. trump takes credit for anything he can. she wasn’t released before her case was resolved, she was released because her case was resolved. I stand by what I said.

    Does name calling make you feel smarter ??

  10. Secular Bigotry is not “name calling”. “If [Andrew Brunson] was … non christian” or “if [Andrew Brunson] was black” to the “evangelical protestant”, is. It smacks of Secular Bigotry.

    Here’s proof:

    This report was already out in public – Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “A surprise from Trump’s first 100 days: His first international rescue was a Muslim woman”, Washington Post, April 25, 2017 – and yet you playdumb in the Secular Bigotry Arena. “I can’t find what religion she is.”

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