After 20 months in bureaucratic limbo, Canadian-American Christian David Byle was arrested and detained overnight by security police in Ankara, the Turkish capital.
His detention took place on Oct. 13, the morning after American Pastor Andrew Brunson was ordered released by an Izmir court and allowed to return to the United States.
Although Byle was initially informed he would be deported the next day, the long-term resident of Turkey was then released and ordered to leave Turkey within days. After returning to his home in Istanbul, he flew out of Istanbul to the U.S. on Oct. 25 without incident.
As a Canadian-American, Byle had no valid residence permit to present to officers conducting routine ID checks when he arrived from Istanbul at the Ankara train station.
But when he was taken to the Turkish capital’s Anti-Terror Police Department, officials quickly confirmed that their latest Western-citizen detainee had in fact been staying in the country legally for the past 1.5 years, protected by a temporary constitutional-court order blocking a previous criminal-court order that had called for his deportation and subsequent re-entry ban.
“They would have no legal grounds to deport me if I was charged only over my religious activities, none of which are illegal under Turkish law, and are in fact protected by the Turkish Constitution. So they needed a more legally justifiable reason to deport me.”
Turkey’s highest court had blocked Byle’s lower-court rulings in February 2017, suspending the earlier directives claiming that his “Christian propaganda activities exceeded usual religious rituals.” Accordingly, the court had concluded that members of other religions could perceive him as a threat, so the Turkish government had the right to consider him a threat to public order and national security.
Byle’s latest arrest this month was not a new experience for the 49-year-old evangelist, who has during his 19 years in Turkey faced a number of similar short-term detentions and interrogations, three times resulting in attempted deportations (stopped in the end by court rulings), and stays abroad for several months to comply with Turkish-visa regulations.
Although throughout the years Byle’s visa renewal requests were repeatedly declined or left unanswered, various criminal charges against him were eventually dropped by local courts, bowing to national laws defining missionary activities as legal and confirming that the Christian literature he distributed did not slander Islam.
Even so, Byle told World Watch Monitor he wasn’t surprised when he was informed shortly after his Ankara arrest that he was to be deported immediately, the very next day. But the authorities’ plans later changed, possibly after learning that his constitutional-court decision was still in effect, prohibiting his legal deportation until the higher court actually reviewed his case and gave a final ruling, confirming whether the allegations against him were backed by credible evidence.
SOURCE: Christian Post