USA pastor Andrew Brunson on trial in Turkey for links to coup

Howard TerryApr 17, 2018

FILE - In this September 24, 2013 file photo, Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa.

A Turkish court refused to release an American pastor from jail on Monday, prolonging an imprisonment that's angered the U.S. congress and been a key point of tension in U.S. -Turkey relations for nearly two years.

And despite Saturday's devastating US-led missile attack to degrading the regime's chemical arsenal and deterring the Syrian leader from using such weapons again, leading opposition figures said they now feared the people of Deraa faced the same fate as the victims of Douma.

An ACLJ petition calling for Pastor Brunson's release has almost half a million signatures.

"There's signs which exhibits Brunson was detained due for his own beliefs", Halavurt advised Reuters on the eve of this trial, saying Brunson's non secular role had been "classified as aiding terror organizations".

The U.S. government has repeatedly asked Turkey to release Brunson.

But Erdogan fired back at Washington, demanding that the US first return Gulen.

A copy of Brunson's indictment seen by Reuters accuses him of working both with Gulen's network and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.

The administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long portrayed former imam Fethullah Gulen as the sinister mastermind who orchestrated last year's failed coup attempt from his home in Pennsylvania.

Brunson was jailed in October 2016 and only recently found out the full extent of the charges against him.

If convicted, Brunson could be imprisoned for several years in a Turkish prison. Brunson is accused of acting in "parallel and coordinated fashion" with them, aiming to "divide" the country. "There is a victim and we must first of all assure his right to freedom and security", said Halavurt.

Izmir's prosecutor's office said that sufficient evidence was obtained to charge Brunson with aiding armed terrorist organisations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage.

Talking about the trial, Halavurt said he expects Brunson to be released on Monday over what he called "very weak" accusations.

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.

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