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US preacher faces terror charges in Turkey

Prosecutors demand up to 35-year jail term for Pastor Brunson for allegedly committing crimes for terror groups

17.03.2018
US preacher faces terror charges in Turkey

By Omer Sut and Mustafa Yildirim

IZMIR

Turkish prosecutors have demanded up to 35 years of imprisonment for American Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson for allegedly committing crimes on behalf of terrorist organizations.

The indictment prepared by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Aegean province of Izmir following one-and-a*half-year-long investigation was accepted by the 2nd High Penal Court in the province on Friday.

He was arrested in Izmir on Dec. 9, 2016 over the accusation of committing crimes on behalf of the PKK terror group and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), a group behind the defeated coup attempt in July 2016. 

Prosecutors demanded 15 years of imprisonment for committing crimes on behalf of terror organizations without being a member, while up to 20 years were sought for political or military espionage.

Brunson is accused of carrying out espionage and organizational activities across Turkey under the guise of missionary operations, being linked to FETO and PKK members, and interfering into Turkey’s internal affairs.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

The indictment said Brunson was allegedly involved in converting Kurds to Christianity and aiming to establish a Kurdish state for them.

“It was understood that some of the churches’ executives and priests were trying to take root in our country by establishing associations under the guise of a missionary operation. [They were] aiming to divide our country into a few pieces and give a small part to the administration of the FETO terror group,” said the indictment citing several statements from witnesses. 

Support to PKK members

Dua -- the codename of a secret witness -- told prosecutors that the PKK members, who were released from prison, fled the country with the help of churches being run under the supervision of Brunson.

More than 1,200 people, including security forces personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and EU -- resumed its decades-old armed campaign in July 2015.

The witness further said that the Bible was translated in Kurdish and the Izmir Resurrection Church, of which Brunson was the pastor, used to hold a separate congregation for Kurds in the southeastern region of Turkey.

The purpose of conversion to Christianity was to instigate a separation on the belief that “Kurdistan” was about to be founded, the indictment cited the witness as saying.

Brunson also allegedly had information about a possible coup attempt before the FETO-led defeated coup occurred in July 2016 as his one of the mobile phone messages to a U.S. soldier showed his support for the coup plotters, it said.

According to the indictment, Brunson wrote in the message: "We were waiting for some events to shake the Turks […], the coup attempt was a shock, many Turks trusted the military as they did in the past […] We will eventually win."

The content of the message unveiled that he was "sad" about the defeat of the July 15 coup bid, the indictment added.

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