ASIA/TURKEY - Evangelical pastor Brunson also accused of supporting the creation of a "Christian Kurdish state"

Wednesday, 9 May 2018 middle east   justice   human rights  


Izmir (Agenzia Fides) - Among the new, exorbitant accusations against American evangelical pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, on trial by the Turkish judicial authorities for alleged connivance with networks and forces accused of terrorist acts and subversive plots against Turkey, is that of trying to set up a “Christian Kurdish state” destined to occupy part of the Turkish territory. A "secret witness" described as a former parishioner and codenamed "Serhat" testified via a long-distance system and claimed that Brunson helped Kurdish militants in various ways, including those fighting in Syria. He also claimed a Syrian who converted to Christianity helped Brunson.
The new accusation is to be added to the other charges already addressed against the US pastor, whose story has entered fully into the list of issues that have recently increased the tension between the Turkish government and the US administration.
Brunson is detained in Turkey on charges of connivance with Hizmet, the organization of the Turkish Islamic preacher Fetullah Gulen, indicated by Ankara as the inspirer of the failed coup of July 15, 2016. Over time the list of charges against him has increased, Brunson faces a 35-year prison sentence if the charges of espionage and flanking of Hizmet and of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered as “terrorist organization” by both Turkey and the US, will be upheld.
Already responsible for the Evangelical Church of the Resurrection in Izmir (Smirne Diriliş Kilisesi), Andrew Craig Brunson had been summoned by the Turkish immigration office in October 2016, along with his wife, Lyn Norine. The couple was initially informed of the obligation to leave Turkey, justifying this measure with the vague accusation of having received funds from abroad to finance missionary initiatives and to have endangered the security of the country with their activities.
Subsequently, the Turkish press reported that for the evangelical pastor the expulsion decree had turned into an arrest, after a secret witness had accused him of belonging to the so-called FETO (Turkish acronym of "Fethullahnista terrorist organization", definition with which pro-government Turkish organs indicate the Gulen network). In prison, Brunson had received visits from senior US Embassy officials to Turkey, and US President Donald Trump had also requested the release of the evangelical pastor during the May 2017 meeting in the White House with Turkish President Erdogan. Last August, after Trump’s intervention, Brunson had been accused of even more serious crimes than he had in the past, and had been transferred to a maximum security prison, where some defendants are held to be among the highest officials of the failed coup of 2016.
Last September 28, Erdogan himself had declared himself ready to release the US evangelical pastor only if in return the US authorities will hand over to Turkey Fethullah Gulen, who has been exiled to the USA since 1999.
Brunson’s legal case has resumed in recent days, after the first session was held on April 16th. On that occasion, after the 13 hours of proceedings, dominated by wild conspiracies, tortured logic, and "secret witnesses" - whose voices were sometimes disguised almost to the point of being indecipherable - the court updated the hearing, postponing it for three weeks. During the hearings, Pastor Brunson - currently detained in a maximum security prison, seemed to have lost weight. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 9/5/2018)