Turkish immigration authorities refused to permit Canadian-American Christian David Byle to enter Turkey when he returned to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport last week.
After living and ministering in Turkey for the past 19 years, the 49-year-old evangelist was told by police officials on his arrival on 20 November that a permanent re-entry ban had been filed against him, forbidding him to ever return to the country.
Byle had flown back to the US on 25 October, complying with a 15-day deadline from Turkish authorities to leave the country after he was interrogated in mid-October during a routine ID check at the Ankara train station. At the time, he had been told by his police interrogators in Ankara that he would not be banned from returning to Turkey if he paid his required over-stay fine when he left.
But when he returned last week via Germany to join his wife and children in Istanbul, he was informed at passport control that he could not enter; instead, he would be held in custody until he could be deported on the next Turkish Airlines flight back to Stuttgart, his last port of departure.
While in airport detention, Byle was given no Turkish court order or official decree in writing confirming the reported permanent re-entry ban against him. But when he arrived in Stuttgart, German immigration officials were presented with a formal rejection notice from the office of the Istanbul Governor, specifying that Byle was refused admission into Turkey because of an entry ban against him.
Under deportation regulations, Byle was allowed no visits by his family, lawyer or embassy officials while awaiting deportation over the next two days. But “unlike my other times,” Byle said, he was allowed to keep and use his mobile phone throughout his detention-centre stay.
Over the past decade, Byle had been the target of several police arrests, brief detentions and related court cases linked to his active involvement in various Turkish church groups and Christian ministries. Although Byle was acquitted on all charges, the Interior Ministry refused for more than two years to renew his residence visa, giving no explanation.
Two years ago, the Turkish Interior Ministry had issued a directive ordering Byle’s expulsion from Turkey on the basis of lower-court rulings stating he was “a threat to national security”.
But his imminent deportation in February 2017 was blocked when the Constitutional Court intervened, demanding that specific “information and documents” be produced as evidence that he was a director, member or supporter of any “terrorist organisations” or a threat to public order and security.
To date, Byle’s Turkish lawyer has not been able to confirm whether Turkey’s Constitutional Court has reviewed this long-delayed deportation order and issued any final ruling on Byle’s case. Today, 26 November, the attorney confirmed that he will file a case within the next couple of days to contest his client’s latest deportation.
“Our 19 years of ministry in Turkey are most likely coming to an end,” Byle wrote from Germany today. “We will open a court case to contest the entry ban,” he continued, “even if it won’t likely prevent us from having to move from Turkey.”
“For practical purposes,” Byle told World Watch Monitor while in custody at the airport, “my wife and three children in Istanbul hope to stay in Istanbul until the current school year ends in June.” Then their family expects to settle in a metropolitan area of Germany and continue ministering among Turkish-speakers, he said.