US pastor faces espionage, terror charges in Turkey trial

US pastor faces terror charges in fraught trial in Turkey

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.

"The start was very, very hard".

Gulen denies any role in the failed coup and says his Hizmet (Service) movement promotes a peaceful form of Islam.

A Turkish court on Monday began hearing allegations against Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, on charges of links to the group that orchestrated a 2016 failed coup in Turkey. Gulen has denied the charge, and Brunson denied any involvement with Gulen in court Monday.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian group in the U.S., has called Brunson a "hostage of the Turkish government". If anything, I think the information that has been presented today creates a more compelling reason why he is innocent, ' Tillis told reporters after the ruling.

In particular, Turkey has accused Brunson of working for the Gulenist movement, a political organization led by Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric in exile in the USA whom Erdogan has accused of fomenting the coup. "We are also against the unconditional support for the (Syrian) regime and we are at odds with Iran and Russian Federation on this", he said.

Halavurt said that while Brunson was physically fine, he was anxious for his day in court.


"This is a special, delicate trial and if we look at other trials that have been held in this last period, we see that some people have been condemned without enough evidence, so it's a risk we have to consider", he said.

More than 50,000 people are jailed under state-of-emergency decrees and more than 150,000 people have lost their jobs. The purges have led to widespread criticism of the country's authoritarian president. The Turkish Association of Protestant Churches said in a report that 2017 was marked by continued hate crimes and physical attacks.

"He's not guilty, he's not a spy, he's not working for Central Intelligence Agency or other kind of organization", Tufan said.

Turkey has also been at loggerheads with Washington over United States support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation linked to Kurdish militants PKK, waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

The State Department said it was deeply concerned by the conviction.

Relations are already strained over American backing for a Kurdish militia in Syria despised by Ankara and the jailing of two employees at American missions in Turkey. In January 2018, the emergency state in Turkey was extended for the sixth time.

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