German Pastor Facing Deportation From Turkey

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

(Worthy News) - A German pastor who faces expulsion from Turkey urged prayers Tuesday as he awaits the outcome of a trial that could effectively ban him from the country, supporters said.

Michael Feulner came to Turkey as a relief worker after the 1999 earthquake in Izmit about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Istanbul. He and his family settled in Yalova, where he has been pastor of the evangelical Yalova Lighthouse Church since 2003.

However, in February last year, Feulner was reportedly detained at the Istanbul airport and told he was a threat to Turkish national security and ordered to leave the country within 10 days. The pastor then initiated court proceedings requesting the removal of the security designation and cancellation of the deportation order, Worthy News learned.

Advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) told Worthy News that a “three-judge panel examined that designation” Monday. The pastor and his lawyer “presented evidence that the state has always been aware of Michael’s ministry,” added MEC, which closely followed the case.

The group said they also argued that “the security designation is a violation of his religious freedom.” In a possible positive development, judges demanded that the Turkish Intelligence (MIT) service produce “reasonable grounds” for the restriction.

“This procedure showed a contrast to other hearings for foreign Christians with similar security designations” in Turkey, a heavily Islamic nation, MEC said. “In those cases, courts were unwilling to challenge secret reports submitted by MIT, which the defense is not allowed to see,” MEC added.

In February, a court decided not to rule on the deportation order before the court in Ankara would rule whether the security designation was justified. Feulner reportedly said that he was “thankful for how the hearing went” and added that based on the evidence, he “can’t imagine losing his case.” It was not known when the judges would provide a ruling.

The case was the latest in a series of deportation procedures targeting foreign Christians in the country. In remarks, Christians supporting the pastor in Turkey said they asked for prayers that the “judges will view the “security” designations as “an assault on religious freedom.”

They hope the court will rule against deportation. The Christians want the minority Protestant community in Turkey to be recognized as part of Turkish society “and not be seen as a threat to Turkish security or culture.”