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Residing in Turkey for over 20 years and being arrested on December 9, 2016, US Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson’s hearing was held at İzmir 2nd Heavy Penal Court.
The court again ruled continuation of the arrest in the third hearing.
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”.
Brunson’s lawyer: We expect him to be released today
According to Deutsche Welle, Pastor Brunson’s lawyer İsmail Cem Halavurt made the following statement ahead of the hearing:
“We’ve been saying since day one that the defendant should be released as per law. We expect him to be released as the stage of collecting evidence is over”.
Brunson polemic between the US and Turkey
Priest of Diriliş Kilisesi (Resurrection Church) in İzmir, priest Andrew Craig Brunson had his first hearing at İzmir 2nd Heavy Penal Court on Monday (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!” (PT/TK)
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