Trump Supports US Pastor Jailed In Turkey


Prosecutors accused Brunson of using missionary activities as a cover to work with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and with the organization of Fethullah Gulen, a USA -based Turkish cleric who Turkey says orchestrated a 2016 coup attempt.

He is accused of engaging in activities on behalf of the group led by exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen - who Ankara says is behind a failed 2016 coup - and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

On Wednesday, Wess Mitchell, the top USA diplomat for Europe, said the charges against the 50-year-old Brunson were "laughable," according to the Associated Press.

"I reject the charges mentioned in the indictment. I haven't been involved in any illegal activity", Brunson told the court.

ACLU chief Jay Sekulow said, "Instead of being returned to the prison [after Monday's hearing] where he had been held most recently, the judge ordered Pastor Andrew to be taken back to an overcrowded and extremely grim prison where he was held initially". It is a facility where almost two dozen inmates are held to a cell, the centre said.

"He's done", that the ACLJ senior counselor CeCei Heil explained. "That relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated". They were on video, with their appearances and voices disguised.

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As Brunson's lawyer told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that there was no use in pushing this case on political grounds, Brownback said the US administration, from President Donald Trump down, wanted to see the case resolved and see Brunson "released".

"We have seen no credible evidence that Mr. Brunson is guilty of a crime and are convinced that he is innocent", the statement said.

"We are watching to see if the Turks adhere to their stated standards of justice", Mitchell told Congress. "He's a pawn in a political game between Turkey and the U.S".

Brunson reacted emotionally as the ruling was read out, telling his wife Norine in English: "I am going insane". Following the court's ruling to continue the trial, she was upset and declined to speak with the media. Thom Tillis, a Republican, and Sam Brownback, the ambassador for global religious freedom, attended Monday's hearing.

The American Center for Law and Justice said the 62-page indictment against Bruson accuses him of "the supposed "crime" of "Christianization".

"There is evidence that shows Brunson was arrested due to his faith", Brunson's lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, told Reuters before the trial.

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"Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason", Trump tweeted.

"The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey", Brownback told reporters.

Andrew Brunson, who ran a Protestant church in the western city of Izmir, has been detained by Turkish authorities since October 2016.

Brunson gained his theology PhD from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland in 2001.

Washington brushed off the offer but has been working intensely to secure the release of Brunson, one of several American nationals caught up in the crackdown after the failed coup against Erdogan in July 2016.

In the courtroom during Monday's hearing, he broke down once or twice.

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