Sitting in a huge courtroom, situated on the outskirts of İzmir, listening to pastor Brunson, I genuinely thought this could have very well been a criminal case in Iran.
The reason I thought of Iran was because I was remembering all those trials that took place after the 2009 elections.
Indictment was mainly based on testimonies from secret witnesses. Most of the claims sounded like they were fresh out of a spy movie. One of the witnesses claim that, there is this organization called KAMA. Allegedly this KAMA, controls all of American deep state. All the pastors coming to Turkey, no matter from which church, are sent to Turkey by KAMA. And all the pastors and priests are, in fact, covert spies, trying to Christianize the Kurds, so the divide between the Turks and the Kurds can deepen, and Turkish Republic can eventually disintegrate. Some of you may be trying to comprehend what you just read or may be just laughing. However, neither the judges nor the state attorney was laughing. These were simply charges, taken seriously by the court members.
What pastor Brunson did was hard to do. He defended himself for about six hours at the court, and furthermore, he did all of it in Turkish. The toughest part for him appeared to be, how to explain the differences between denominations to the court.
Since the indictment had designated the Mormon church as a covert base for the CIA and claimed that Brunson was working in cooperation with the Mormon church, he first tried to describe how Evangelical, which is his denomination, could not and would not work in cooperation with the Mormons. He tried to explain, how, as far as his church was concerned, Mormons were not even considered as protestants. They may at most be seen as Christians with a different holy book and a prophet. It took him at least half an hour to try to explain that.
The judge was very much interested in certain messages Brunson had sent to his friend Dan, 6 days after the coup. In those messages Brunson was briefly saying, how Turks thought this would be like other coups in Turkey’s modern history, but how it turned out to be something else. He was pointing out in his messages that, at this point, a one-man rule would be on the rise in Turkey. The judge, insisted Brunson explain what he meant by one-man rule. Brunson refrained from mentioning President Erdoğan by name.
Brunson was asked about the efforts of his church in Suruç, -a Turkish town bordering Syria, in detail. He explained that he had gone to Suruç to help the refugees escaping from ISIS and to tell them about Jesus; which was actually the sole reason he was in Turkey. Brunson talks about, how the masses coming in from Syria was important to them. Syrian state did not allow missionary efforts, so they had no contacts in Syria before the war. However, Brunson said they saw this influx of refugees as an opportunity to spread Christianity among refugees and introduce the protestant faith to Syrians and Syria. Judge did not like Brunson’s explanation. He first stated his argument about the cause of instability in Syria, which, in his opinion, was sectarian divide. He, then, asked Brunson, whether or not spreading protestant faith would further destabilize an already divided Syria.
Brunson looked puzzled by this question, so did the audience and journalists inside the court.