Andrew Brunson was arrested in 2016 because of being a member of FETÖ, which is an organization responsible* for the coup attempt in Turkey.

* This is the consensus in Turkey. In addition, the opposition thinks that Erdogan's party is responsible too, because of supporting FETÖ in the past (especially before 2013).

US President Donald Trump wanted Brunson to be released just a few days after the state of emergency ended. Since he was not released, the USA started to impose some sanctions on Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he could be released only if the USA extradited Fethullah Gülen to Turkey.

Erdogan: They want a priest from us, and you have a priest either. Extradite him, let's judge.

I wonder why the USA is reacting so strictly against Turkey.

Is Trump doing what he would do for every US citizen, does Brunson have any other duty other than being a pastor, or is Brunson important for Trump's domestic politics in the USA?

Note: Lots of people were purged unfairly after the coup attempt, but I don't know if that was a case for Brunson. If so, that could be an answer too.

  • 4
    To begin with, the statement that you quote carries a strong implication that the Turkish government is mostly interested in Mr. Brunson as an hostage to exchange for Fethullah, and that whatever Mr. Brunson actually did is not important. From that point onward, any claim from the Turkish government about Andrew Brunson alleged crimes and about him receiving a fair trial are to be received with skepticism. And jailing citizens from a foreign country without a fair trial almost always carries a serious backslash, and the USA has lots of tools to appy leverage.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 10:54
  • 1
    Also, the assertion that FETÖ [...] is an organization responsible for the coup attempt in Turkey. is far from being universally accepted, and there are claims that Erdogan is just using the excuse of prosecuting those responsible for the coup to get rid of political rivals.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 11:03
  • @SJuan76 I'm aware of the unfair trials and I agree, but FETÖ's responsibility is accepted by opposition as well. There is one difference. Since Erdogan supported FETÖ in the past, he is responsible too.
    – user15657
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 11:53
  • @SJuan76 I added some notes into the question for clarification.
    – user15657
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 20:17

1 Answer 1


Andrew Brunson is not of special value to the US government, however he is an American citizen. An American citizen being held hostage by a foreign government. That is why he matters.

He is being used as leverage to attempt to force the extradition of a scapegoat for Erdogan to execute. The US is not in the business of simply sending US residents to be murdered.

The label "FETÖ" is one created by the Turkish government. There is no organization that identifies as FETÖ. It appears to be a means to brand a faith as a terrorist organization. This supposed organization does not appear to commit or be linked to acts of terror. They are not even accused of anything except for the supposed coup which cemented Erdogan's near-dictatorial power.

The primary crime of most of the accused appears to be promoting inter-faith dialogue, not terrorism.

In short, Andrew Brunson does not appear to be being held for a crime. From the outside, it looks like he is being held for associating with people who Erdogan does not like. Other people guilty of association with Mr. Gulen include such horrible "villains" as Pope John Paul II.

Brunson is being used as a bargaining chip to force the extradition of a man who will undoubtedly be executed for reasons that appear questionable. Many Americans do not see a meaningful difference between this and similar hostage situations in North Korea or Iran.

  • Thanks for your answer. If I don't misunderstand the second and last paragraphs, you are talking about death penalty, but there is NO death penalty in Turkey. *
    – user15657
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 18:32
  • @ahmedus A couple years ago the president of Turkey didnt have the ability to intervene in the judiciary or override the parliament. Who knows what the law will be tomorrow. Sorry, but holding US citizens as hostages does not exactly inspire confidence. If Brunson were guilty of an actual crime, he wouldnt be offering to release him. Erdogan's just another proto-dictator trying to use innocent lives as leverage.
    – Tal
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 2:06
  • I see the US'/your concerns as I have similar ones. At least Erdogan is not the lawmaker for now.
    – user15657
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 8:30

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