US Pastor Jailed for 'Terrorism' in Turkey Begins Trial

An American pastor Monday went on trial in Turkey on terror-related charges after spending the last one-and-a-half years behind bars, in a case that has increased friction between Ankara and Washington.

Last September, Erdogan said that Turkey would send Brunson back to the United States if Washington carried out an extradition request for Gulen. American President Donald Trump urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to have his government "expeditiously" return the pastor to the United States.

The indictment against him also claims that he helped a group led by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim preacher living in the USA whom Turkish authorities accuse of staging a failed coup in 2016.

This article has been adapted from its original source. "We believe that Turkey is a state of law, and we have faith in the Turkish people's commitment to justice".

His trial is one of several legal cases which have strained relations between Turkey and the United States, who are also at odds over USA support for a Kurdish militia in northern Syria which Turkey considers a terrorist organisation.

The Rev Andrew Brunson, 50, who has led a small evangelical congregation in the Resurrection Church in the city of Izmir since 1993, was arrested in October 2016.

In an indication of the importance of the case for Washington, the hearing was attended by Sam Brownback, the USA ambassador at large for religious freedoms, and Senator Thom Tillis from Brunson's home state of North Carolina.

As many as 461 employees of the Turkish Foreign Ministry have been dismissed as part of the fight against the FETO terrorist group following the military coup attempt in Turkey, said Mevlut Cavusoglu, the country's foreign minister, Turkish media reported April 16. I reject all the accusations in the indictment.

"Today the Lord clearly showed me and another believer to pray for Andrew three times a day - morning, noon, evening. I have never been involved in any illegal activities", Brunson, wearing a white shirt and black suit, said as he made his defense in Turkish language, according to Hurriyet. On the contrary, I love Turkey.

Brunson's lawyer said he was healthy but "demoralized" after being stuck behind bars, having missed his daughter's engagement and another child's graduation.

A senior USA official told NBC News, "We are following this case closely, and since his arrest, we have visited Mr. Brunson regularly".

The lawyer said he is opposed to the "politicization" of Brunson's case and says his client wants to remain in Turkey if he's acquitted.

  • Jon Douglas