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Turkey's Erdogan Turns to US Investors to Save Economy - Why Religious Freedom Advocates Are Sounding an Alarm

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As American Pastor Andrew Brunson remains under house arrest in Turkey, the NATO ally's economy is spiraling out of control from sanctions imposed by the US over Brunson's captivity.

Now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on American soil meeting with hundreds of investors whom he hopes will help save his nation's failing economy.

However, religious freedom advocates say US financiers should steer clear of this request.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom calls the Turkish leader's actions "troubling given (Erdogan's) personal and public support for the continued, unlawful detainment" of Brunson.

"It's such an unstable country right now and the human rights violations that are occurring are so troubling as we're seeing with Andrew Brunson that we would really caution businesses to be careful about investing in Turkey," USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza wrote.

Pastor Brunson has been held captive in Turkey for nearly two years on bogus terror charges.

During that time, the Turkish lira has lost 40 percent of its value due to Erdogan's power grab and the diplomatic dispute between the US and Turkey over Brunson.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Maenza says Erdogan is using Brunson as a pawn to play to his Islamist base and distract from the pain Turks are feeling in their pocketbooks.

"Their economy is spiraling and their currency has devalued and there's all sorts of problems in Turkey, so this is a really good distraction for the president to be able to point to say, 'See, look, I'm protecting our country from dangerous terrorists,' and we all know Andrew Brunson is not a dangerous terrorist," she said.

While the US mainstream media has offered limited coverage of the pastor's plight, it's a different matter in Turkey where it's considered a huge deal that an American Christian has been charged with terrorism.

"He's been charged with trying to overthrow the government of Turkey, which is of course completely false," Maenza told CBN News.

Earlier this year Brunson was finally moved from terrible prison conditions to house arrest.

"And the fact that he's in his home – we're so glad that he's not in prison – but we're concerned for his safety because if there was – it's not like he's in a secured fortress like we feel like he should be, so we obviously feel like he should be returned immediately to the United States," she said.

There are rumors Turkey may release Brunson around the time of his next hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 12. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he expects to talk with Turkish officials this week to discuss Brunson's fate.

Brunson's release would be a tremendous political coup for President Trump – but not nearly as sweet as it will be for Brunson's family and the millions of Christians praying for him.

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About The Author


As Senior Washington Correspondent for CBN News, Jennifer covers the intersection of faith and politics - often producing longer format stories that dive deep into the most pressing issues facing Americans today. A 20-year veteran journalist, Jennifer has spent most of her career covering politics, most recently at the White House as CBN's chief White House Correspondent covering the Obama and Trump administrations. She's also covered Capitol Hill along with a slew of major national stories from the 2008 financial crisis to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and every election in between. Jennifer