US pastor faces terror charges in fraught trial in Turkey

Sergio Conner
April 16, 2018

Washington has known for Brunson's re lease though Erdogan suggested this past season his fate might possibly be associated with that of US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose extradition Ankara has sought to face charges within the coup endeavor.

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 organization.

Ismail Cem Halavurt said pastor Andrew Brunson, detained 18 months ago, faced the "totally unfounded" charge of aiding a terrorist organization and should be freed at Monday's hearing in the Mediterranean city of Izmir. His wife was in the courtroom, as were North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and United States envoy for religious freedom Sam Brownback.

Andrew Brunson goes on trial on charges of aiding terror groups in a case that has raised tensions between Washington and Ankara. That has created festering frustration in the Turkish government, which has hunted down tens of thousands of alleged Gulen supporters and either imprisoned them or fired them from government jobs. He faces up to 35 years in prison. In a meeting past year 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.

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

Turkey has submitted an extradition request to the USA for Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, but so far it not been granted.

For Brunson, the Chairman flew on Sunday in the Resurrection Church in Izmir, and his wife Norine read a message out at that he spoke about quiet and this darkness with his detention.

The Izmir prosecutor's indictment against Brunson claims he was in contact with top-level executives of Gulen's network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

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