US Pastor on Trial for Alleged Terror Ties, Spying in Turkey

Speaking truth to empire

Speaking truth to empire

The trial begins today in Aliaga, a town in western Turkey.

Brunson has been the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, serving a small Protestant congregation in Turkey's third largest city.

Brunson was arrested in December 2016 for alleged links to both an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and the network of the US -based Muslim cleric who Turkey blames for a masterminding a failed military coup that year. "I was never involved in any illegal activities", said Brunson, wearing a white shirt and black suit and making his defence in Turkish. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedoms were observing the trial, Turkey's private Dogan news agency reported. The trial is one of several legal cases which have damaged ties between Turkey and the US.

USA relations with Turkey have soured recently over a number of issues, including what the US sees as Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule. Gulen denies any role in the failed coup.


Turkey has also been at loggerheads with Washington over USA support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation linked to Kurdish militants waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkish soil.

The relationship between the United States and Turkey is likely to come under pressure as long as a USA pastor remains in jail, a US official responsible for worldwide religious freedom said on Monday.

Brunson's lawyer said the pastor, detained 18 months ago, was in custody because of his religious beliefs. There have been growing signs of Western discomfort over the alliance of Turkey - a key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member since 1952 - with Iran and Russian Federation over Syria.

The Izmir prosecutor's office said that sufficient evidence had been obtained to charge Brunson with aiding armed terrorist organisations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage. Turkey has repeatedly asked the United States to extradite Pennsylvania-based Gulen, accusing him of organizing the failed 2016 military coup. "We want Brunson to be freed immediately".

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