Home / world / US pastor Andrew Brunson on trial in Turkey for alleged terrorism ties to Fethullah Gullen group and PKK

US pastor Andrew Brunson on trial in Turkey for alleged terrorism ties to Fethullah Gullen group and PKK

ALIAGA, Turkey — An American pastor accused of ties to terror teams and spying in Turkey went on trial on Monday, in a case that has strained ties between Turkey and the US. Andrew Craig Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina, faces as much as 35 years in jail on prices of “committing crimes on behalf of terror teams with out being a member” and “espionage.”

He was arrested within the aftermath of a failed navy coup in 2016, for alleged hyperlinks to each the outlawed Kurdistan Staff’ Social gathering, or PKK, and a community led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who’s blamed by Turkey for the coup try.

Brunson, who served because the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church with a small Protestant congregation and has lived in Turkey for 23 years, denies all allegations.

His trial opened within the city of Aliaga, some 38 miles north of the Aegean coastal metropolis of Izmir, a 12 months and half after his arrest, with courtroom officers studying the prosecutors’ indictment. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for spiritual freedoms had been observing the trial, Turkey’s non-public Dogan information company reported.

Brownback instructed reporters throughout a recess on Monday that U.S.-Turkish relations can be affected if Brunson remained in jail.

“The USA cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey,” Brownback stated, based on the Reuters information company. “That relationship goes to have problem transferring ahead so long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”

Prosecutors are searching for 15 years in jail in opposition to the pastor for alleged crimes dedicated within the title of Gulen’s group and the PKK, and an extra 20 years for allegedly acquiring state secrets and techniques for political and navy spying functions utilizing his spiritual work as cowl.

The indictment — primarily based on the testimonies of witnesses, together with three secret ones, and alleged digital proof — claims the pastor labored to transform Kurds to Christianity to sow discord.

U.S. officers have repeatedly known as for Brunson’s launched, and President Donald Trump has requested Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to have his authorities “expeditiously” return the pastor to the U.S.

Erdogan fired again at Washington, demanding that the U.S. return Gulen to Turkey.

“Give him (Gulen) to us, and we are going to attempt (Brunson) and return him,” Erdogan stated final 12 months.

Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has denied involvement within the coup.

Brunson’s lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, instructed The Related Press on Sunday he expects the pastor’s acquittal, arguing that the “weak” indictment lacks ample proof to make the case maintain up in courtroom.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This materials is probably not printed, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Related Press contributed to this report.

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