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World American pastor Andrew Brunson goes on trial in Turkey, denies terror links

23:05  16 april  2018
23:05  16 april  2018 Source:   foxnews.com

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A gaunt and reportedly demoralized American pastor detained in Turkey pleaded his innocence in a courtroom on Monday, denying charges he committed military espionage and that he’s aligned with a terrorist group. Andrew Brunson is accused by the Turkish government of having terrorist ties.

ISTANBUL — An American pastor facing up to 35 years behind bars denied accusations that he aided terrorist groups or spied against Turkey as his trial began Monday. Andrew Brunson — a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina

A gaunt and reportedly demoralized American pastor detained in Turkey pleaded his innocence in a courtroom on Monday, denying charges he committed military espionage and that he’s aligned with a terrorist group. He faces a possible 35-year sentence, if convicted.

"I am a Christian pastor,” Andrew Brunson said during the hearing. “I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different."

The Turkish government has charged the 50-year-old American of being a terrorist. But his attorneys claim the Christian minister, who has shepherded a small church in Turkey for 23 years, is a political pawn.

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A gaunt and reportedly demoralized American pastor detained in Turkey pleaded his innocence in a courtroom on Monday, denying charges he committed military esp. Andrew Brunson is accused by the Turkish government of having terrorist ties.

ALIAGA, Turkey — An American pastor is going on trial in Turkey accused of ties to terror groups and spying, in a case that has strained ties between Turkey

"How could [Turkey], with a straight face, put forth this indictment that they know...we're going to read and see right through their scam that they have nothing on Pastor Brunson,” said CeCei Heil with the American Center for Law and Justice, which is helping to represent Brunson. “He has done nothing. He is an innocent pastor who has simply lived out his faith in Turkey."

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Fox News

The Turkish Government has accused Brunson of being a co-conspirator of the exiled Turkish Imam – Fethullah Gulen. Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan said Gulen orchestrated the failed coup attempt in 2016, from his home in Pennsylvania.

Part of the 62-page indictment against Brunson cites secret witnesses and covert espionage tactics. It reads, in part, that he's guilty of, "committing crimes on behalf of the organization despite not being a member of the organization, and disclosing State information that must remain confidential for political or military espionage."

US pastor on trial for alleged terror ties, spying in Turkey

  US pastor on trial for alleged terror ties, spying in Turkey An American pastor imprisoned in Turkey is going on trial in a case that has increased tensions between Washington and Ankara. Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, is facing 35 years in prison on charges of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member" and "espionage." Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, is facing 35 years in prison on charges of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member" and "espionage." The trial begins Monday in western Izmir province.

A gaunt and reportedly demoralized American pastor detained in Turkey pleaded his innocence in a courtroom on Monday, denying charges he committed military espionage and that he’s aligned with a terrorist group. “I am a Christian pastor ,” Andrew Brunson said during the hearing.

Andrew Brunson , an American pastor , stands in Izmir, Turkey , in this file photo. Brunson has been charged in Turkey with engaging in espionage and having links to terror groups, crimes that carry a potential sentence of up to 35 years in prison.

Turkey has filed extradition papers with the U.S. against Gulen, which are still being reviewed.

The State Department has called the charges against Brunson ridiculous and has asked for his release.

President Trump and Vice President Pence have both brought up Brunson's case with President Erdogan, asking for his release. The U.S. has a team in Turkey observing the trial. It includes former Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom.

"The administration is deeply concerned about this case,” Brownback said. “We completely believe factually he is innocent."

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., a member of the Armed Services Committee, is part of the team in Turkey.

“This pastor was in the United States after the coup and after Erdogan was rounding up people all across the country,” he told Fox News last Friday. “Does anybody really believe that he would have traveled back to a country that he felt like he could have been swept up into that?"

Meanwhile, the year and a half of imprisonment has taken a personal toll on Brunson and his family.

“He's demoralized because he's been in prison for months even though he's innocent,” said Ismail Cem Halavurt, his Turkish defense attorney. “He missed his daughter's wedding, he missed his child's graduation. He is demoralized for staying in prison for so long despite not having committed a crime."

His daughter, Jacqueline Furnari, said her father feels broken and very confused, but that his faith has been strengthened.

"He's been digging into his relationship with God," she said, "and then giving everything to him and saying God my life is in your hands your will be done and this is all to your glory."

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