By Nazli Yuzbasioglu
The U.S. respects Turkey’s legal system on the issue of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is facing terror charges in the country, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
“We believe that the court has the authority now to drop the charges and to release Brunson under judicial control without a travel ban, or to deport him,” said the official, who asked for anonymity.
Arrested in Izmir province in December 2016, Brunson is charged with committing crimes on behalf of the PKK terror group and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) – the group behind the defeated coup attempt of July 2016.
"We were quite disappointed with the outcome of the hearing for the issue of American pastor Andrew Brunson. I do not believe there is any evidence of criminal or terrorist activity. We believe he should be released right away," said the official.
"I have personal faith in the Turkish people's commitment to justice. The court will do the right thing."
"There is considerable discontent in Congress as well as within the U.S. administration about the treatment of Brunson and other U.S. citizens and local staff of the U.S. diplomatic mission under state of emergency rule," he added.
Speaking on the alleged links between FETO and Brunson, he said: "We do not think there is a linkage because the legal systems are different in the two countries and the cases are very different.”
"The fact is that in recent months, U.S. and Turkish law enforcement and judicial counterparts have significantly stepped up their cooperation in examining the activities of Gulen's networks in the U.S."
Speaking about relations between Turkey and the U.S., the official said: "I think relations between the two countries are going in the right direction. Cooperation has improved markedly in the last several months."
"Even though there are a considerable number of issues between the two countries, we are closing the gap between our policies. President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and President [Donald] Trump are both clearly committed to rebuilding relations and getting them on the right path.”
FETO and Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup on July 15, 2016 which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.