Secret witness testifies against US pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey
İZMİR – The Associated Press
A secret witness testifying anonymously against U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey has claimed that he helped outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and aimed to create a Christian Kurdish state.
The trial of Brunson, who faces up to 35 years in jail on terror and spy charges, resumed in Turkey on May 7.
Brunson rejected the claims in the second session of his trial on May 7, insisting that he “never permitted politics in church.”
The leader of a small Protestant Christian church in the western city of İzmir named “Yeniden Diriliş” (Resurrection), Brunson was detained in October and was recently described by U.S. President Donald Trump as a “fine gentleman.”
Prosecutors accuse Brunson of activities on behalf of the PKK as well as the network led by U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused of being behind the July 2016 coup attempt.
Brunson, who has lived and worked in Turkey for over two decades, is also accused of espionage for political or military purposes.
He rejected all the accusations directed against him during the first hearing last month in the town of Aliağa, north of Izmir, and from time to time broke down in tears.
“I haven’t done anything against Turkey. On the contrary I love Turkey. I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years,” he told the judge.
U.S. embassy charge d’affaires Philip Kosnett as well as Sandra Jolley, vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, were present at the May 7 hearing.
The case has further inflamed tensions between Turkey and the United States. Trump said the pastor was on trial and being prosecuted for “no reason,” in a strong tweet after the Turkish court ruled to keep him in jail.
“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 said.
The State Department then said it had seen “no credible evidence” that Brunson was guilty of a crime.
Top U.S. officials have raised the pastor’s case in meetings with Turkish authorities and have called for Brunson’s release.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who will soon meet with U.S. counterpart 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.