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US President Donal Trump has denonuced the ruling for continuation of arrest of US Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, who has been kept in custody since October 2016 on charges of “espionage” and “committing crime on behalf of a terrorist organization”.
“A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!”
A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 19 Temmuz 2018
He has been in Turkey for 23 years
Priest of Diriliş Kilisesi (Resurrection Church) in İzmir, US Pastor Brunson wasn’t released in his third hearing either.
Brunson faces up to 15 years in prison on charge of “committing crime on behalf of a terrorist organization as non-member” and up to 20 years in prison on charge of “espionage”.
Born in North Carolina, US, 50-year-old Brunson has been living in Turkey for 23 years and he was getting prepared to apply for permant residential permit.
Brunson polemic between the US and Turkey
Brunson had his first hearing at İzmir 2nd Heavy Penal Court on April 16 after 16-month detention. Accused of “military and political espionage”, many charges are pressed against Brunson including “Contacting FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) members to be able to open a church in Turkey”.
The court ruled for the continuation of arrest of Brunson in all three hearings held so far.
Washington has been taking steps for Brunson to be released since his arrest. Erdoğan had proposed exchange of US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is head of Gülen Community that is charged with plotting July 15 coup attempt, with Brunson. “The US wants extradition of a priest from us. You have a priest too. You hand him over us as well”, Erdoğan said.
Answering to journalists’ questions about how the US Department of State views this proposal, US Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “I cannot even imagine taking this path”.
On April 18, US President Donald Trump tweeted:
“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!” (EKN/TK)
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