Turkish court decides to keep US pastor Andrew Brunson behind bars
The panel of judges overseeing the trial of jailed pastor Andrew Brunson, in a case that has inflamed tensions between Turkey and the United States, has decided to reject his demand to be released during the trial.
At the end of the hearing on May 7, the court in the Aegean province of İzmir decided to keep Brunson in jail up until the next hearing on July 18.
During the hearing Brunson denied the allegations of three secret witnesses who accused him of helping the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, referred to by the authorities as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Brunson, the leader of a small Protestant Christian church named “Yeniden Diriliş” (Resurrection), rejected all accusations in the second session of his trial, insisting that he “never permitted politics in church.”
“I do not accept the charges. I would like to say openly and clearly that the PKK is a terrorist organization … I do not support any Kurdish group that carries on terrorist activities against Turkey. If we were sympathizers of the PKK those Turks would not stay in our church,” he said.
“My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus but these claims are shameful and disgusting ... What more should I say? I want to return to my home,” he added, requesting to be released pending trial.
Brunson’s lawyer, İsmail Cem Halavurt, said they will insist on demanding his release, stressing that he is mentally depressed.
Brunson was arrested in October 2017 and now faces up to 35 years in jail on terror and spy charges.
U.S. President Donald Trump and the U.S. State Department has repeatedly called on the Turkish government for his release.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!” Trump tweeted on April 18.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who will soon meet new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, said Brunson’s case was a legal one.
“They say ’the government should release him.’ Is it up to me? This is a decision the judiciary will make,” Çavuşoğlu told broadcaster CNN Türk in an interview on May 6.