President Trump has expressed his support for American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, who is now on trial in Turkey. -Turkish relations. The two countries are also at odds over US support for a Kurdish militia in northern Syria that Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
Trump tweeted late Tuesday that "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", Trump said. "Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his handsome family where he belongs!"
The pastor has led a small church in Turkey for more than two decades, but he was detained in 2016 over allegations that he supported the attempted coup against the government.
Local media in Montreat, North Carolina, where the Brunson family is originally from, report that the regional Christ Community Church has "prayed regularly for Brunson and compiled a seven-day prayer guide calling for individual and group prayer on his behalf leading up to the trail" [sic].
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedoms, observed the trial, which the court later adjourned until May 7. "I haven't done anything against Turkey. I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years".
Brunson, who denies any wrongdoing, was arrested in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, as well as a network led by USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Turkey for the coup attempt. "I want truth to come out", Brunson told the court in the western Turkish town of Aliaga, north of the Aegean city of Izmir.
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"We have seen no credible evidence that Mr. Brunson is guilty of a crime and are convinced that he is innocent", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said after Monday's hearing. I reject all the accusations in the indictment.
The Izmir prosecutor's office said that sufficient evidence had been obtained to charge Brunson with aiding armed terrorist organizations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage. I haven't been involved in any illegal activity.
In his first appearance before the court last week, the pastor, in fluent Turkish, denied all charges against him, including his contacts with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) blamed for a 2016 coup attempt and the PKK, another terrorist group.
He had earlier told the judge tearfully: "I want to return my home".
Brunson's wife Norine Brunson leaves the Aliaga court and prison complex after his trial started on Monday. I'm not in favor of separation. "I am a Christian pastor". Above, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
President Trump has slammed Turkey for the detention of an American preacher. He is being accused by the government of seeking to convert Kurdish people to Christianity in order to establish a Kurdish state, which violates Turkish policy. "I would not join an Islamic movement".