Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

US pastor faces terror charges in fraught trial in Turkey

US pastor faces terror charges in fraught trial in Turkey

The lawyer for a USA pastor who goes on trial in Turkey on Monday over alleged links to a group accused of orchestrating a failed military coup said the preacher had been arrested for his Christian faith.

The 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina was arrested in December 2016 for alleged links to both an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and the network of the USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the claim. In a meeting a year ago with his Turkish counterpart, U.S. President Donald Trump asked that the government "expeditiously" return the pastor to the U.S. But the appeals have not made much headway.

USA pastor Andrew Brunson on Monday denied allegations of links to a group accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in Turkey, as he went on trial in the western Turkish town of Aliaga, north of the Aegean city of Izmir.

Brunson's lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, told The Associated Press on Sunday he expects the pastor's acquittal, arguing that the "weak" indictment lacks sufficient evidence to make the case hold up in court.

But Erdogan fired back at Washington, demanding that the USA first return Gulen. "You can give him right away", Erdogan said in September.


The Turkish government blames the cleric Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, for masterminding an attempted coup in 2016. He was arrested in October 2016 while running the Resurrection Church in the western city of Izmir.

Washington has stepped up efforts recently to secure the release of Brunson, who faces 35 years in prison and is also accused of trying to convert Turks to Christianity.

"We do not have a united policy with the United States on the YPG issue, and Turkey's stance has not changed". Both are designated terror groups in Turkey. "We want Brunson to be freed immediately".

The prosecutor also accuses Brunson of espionage, saying Brunson acted "as an agent of unconventional warfare", gathering intelligence with religious work as his cover.

While Turkey has repeatedly called for Assad's ouster, it has been working closely with regime allies Tehran and Moscow in the Astana peace process, albeit with only moderate success.

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