Turkish court keeps U.S. pastor in jail

A Turkish court ordered American pastor Andrew Brunson held for almost two years on terror charges to remain in prison
Wednesday, 18 July 2018 19:54

A court in the Turkish town of Izmir has ordered that US Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, charged with being a "member of a terrorist organization," would remain detained until the next hearing of his case.

Pastor Brunson has been in a Turkish jail since October 2016 on charges of threatening national security for alleged his connections to the group, Fethullah Gülen's network, which orchestrated a failed military coup two years ago and the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"There is no concrete evidence against me. The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name, now it is my turn. I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them. I know why I am here. I am here to suffer in Jesus's name," Brunson told the court in Turkish.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was pastor of the İzmir Resurrection Church, serving a small Protestant congregation in Turkey’s third largest city.

His lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said on Wednesday the prosecution has added the testimonies of two new anonymous witnesses to the case.

The next hearing is scheduled for October 12.

"We are disappointed in the result of today's hearing," said Philip Kosnett, the US charge d'affaires in Ankara who attended Wednesday's session.

President Donald Trump has called for his release and the U.S. Senate passed a bill last month including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because of Brunson's imprisonment and Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defence system.