Turkish court rules to keep American pastor Brunson in jail
A court in the Aegean province of İzmir has ruled that Andrew Brunson, an American pastor being tried on terrorism and spying charges, will be kept in jail pending trial.
The Second High Penal Court in İzmir decided to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing on Oct. 12.
Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of having links with the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup attempt, as well the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
He was detained nearly two years ago and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. Brunson denied the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting.”
President Donald Trump has called for his release and the U.S. Senate passed a bill last month including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because of Brunson’s imprisonment and Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
Philip Kosnett, U.S. charge d’affaires in Turkey, told reporters outside the courtroom before the hearing began that Brunson’s case was a critical one for the United States and had ramifications for its relationship with Turkey.
“The sooner Andrew Brunson can be reunited with his family the sooner we can start focusing on other issues in the relationship,” he said.
Following the hearing, he expressed his disappointment.
"I’ve read the indictment, I’ve attended three hearings. I don’t believe that there is any indication that Pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity. Our government remains deeply concerned about his status, as well as the status of other American citizens and Turkish local employees of the U.S. diplomatic mission who have been detained under state of emergency rules. We have great respect both for Turkey’s traditional law as a haven for people of all faiths and for Turkey’s legal traditions. And we believe that this case is out of step with those traditions," he said in a written statement.
Brunson was pastor of the İzmir Resurrection Church, serving a small Protestant congregation in Turkey’s third largest city, south of the Aegean town of Aliağa where he is now on trial.
The Turkish government says Brunson’s case will be decided by the courts. But President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has previously linked his fate to that of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Turkey blames for the coup attempt and whose extradition Ankara seeks.