The guy claims he’s innocent – Trump is demanding his unconditional release . . . But check this out:
U.S. missionary thrust to the center of Turkey-U.S. crisis
By Ezgi Erkoyun and Humeyra Pamuk
IZMIR, Turkey (Reuters) – When Andrew Brunson saw a police summons on his door in late summer 2016, the U.S. evangelical pastor thought it was a routine appointment to sort out his residency papers in Turkey*, his home for nearly a quarter of a century.
He went to the police station on Oct. 7, 2016, was detained and later charged with involvement in a coup attempt. He is still in detention and is now at the center of a diplomatic row that has fueled Turkey’s most serious currency crisis for almost two decades.
In July, after nearly two years in prison, Brunson was moved to house arrest. A court on Friday rejected an appeal to release him, saying evidence was still being collected and he posed a flight risk, according to a copy of the ruling seen by Reuters.
U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded Brunson’s unconditional release, describing him as a “great patriot hostage”, and has slapped sanctions and tariffs on Turkey which have helped push the lira currency to record lows.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has linked Brunson’s release to the fate of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim cleric living in the United States whom he blames for the July 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan has raised tariffs on U.S. cars, alcohol and tobacco in a tit-for-tat response.
“You have one pastor as well. Give him (Gulen) to us… Then we will try him (Brunson) and give him to you,” Erdogan said in a speech last September to police officers Halavurt, Brunson’s lawyer, said the North Carolina pastor was not unduly alarmed when he first went to the police station. He expected at worst to be given a two-week deadline to leave the country – standard practice with residency violations – and to return to Turkey when his papers were sorted out*.
Instead, he was held in a detention center for two months before being formally arrested on Dec. 9, 2016.
He was charged with crimes committed on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, and on behalf of Gulen’s network, according to the indictment seen by Reuters. Both are designated terrorist groups by Ankara.
He was also charged with disclosing state information “for political or military espionage”.
Brunson has denied all the charges against him.
Prosecutors questioned why he traveled hundreds of miles from his church on Turkey’s western coast to the mainly Kurdish southeast interior, where the PKK is active.**
Messages on his phones, travel details, testimony from his congregation and what the indictment refers to as three secret witnesses, codenamed “Prayer”, “Fire” and “Meteor”, were cited in evidence against him.
The indictment cites GPS data showing trips to Suruc, near the Syrian border, and the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, as well as a meeting in 2010 with a man described by one of the secret witnesses as a U.S. special forces soldier.
Brunson said his trips to Kurdish areas were to help refugees who had escaped war in neighboring Syria.**
“I do not accept that I acted in accordance with PKK targets … We wanted to convert Syrian refugees coming to Izmir. I do not differentiate between their ethnic identities,” he said.**
“Prayer”, the secret witness, was quoted in the indictment as saying Brunson was linked to prominent suspected members of Gulen’s network.
Halavurt said the witness had failed to offer concrete evidence of any such connections.
The prosecution said in its indictment that Brunson’s phone records and witness testimony did establish the connections.
Brunson was not in the country at the time of the coup attempt but returned soon afterwards, according to his lawyer. In a text message cited in the indictment, he said the coup attempt “was a shock”.
“We were waiting for some events that would shake the Turks – preparing the conditions for Jesus’ return … I think the situation is going to get worse. We’ll win in the end,” said the message, which was dated July 21, 2016 and addressed to a fellow pastor, according to the indictment.***
Brunson did not deny sending the message but said it had been misunderstood, the indictment said.***
POINTS TO PONDER
* It is very easy for foreign residents to extend their residence permit in Turkey for two years. What was Brunson’s problem? Clearly he knew he was in violation of Turkey’s laws before the police came knocking on his door.
**Convert Syrian refugees coming into Turkey? Yeah sure! I suspect they’ve got more pressing worries on their mind.
***How can you “misunderstand” a message like that? Christian “missionaries” have a long history of stirring up trouble in Turkey, and before that, in the Ottoman Empire. These biblical fundamentalist, evangelist, Zionist, anti-Muslim extremists are either ignorant unwitting tools of imperialist governments, or else they are knowingly working for them. Either way, they are going to upset locals. The only reason they can operate in Turkey is that it is the only majority Muslim country that will tolerate their incendiary activities.