U.S. pastor denies terror links, spying in Turkish court

US Pastor Goes On Trial In Turkey, Further Straining Relations

President Trump has expressed his support for American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, who is now on trial in Turkey. Turkey has repeatedly demanded his extradition, while the US always refuses citing lack of sufficient evidence.

The ruling was based on evidence given by witnesses in the case and the risk that Brunson might flee the country.

Despite Monday's verdict, Brunson told NBC that relatives were happy the case was moving forward but concerned it could drag on further.

An American pastor on Monday denied accusations that he aided terror groups or spied against Turkey, speaking at the beginning of his trial in a case that has strained ties between Turkey and the United States.

The pastor, imprisoned in the western city of Izmir where he ran a Protestant church, is accused of espionage and aiding two terror groups, charges carrying up to 35 years in prison.

In an indication of the importance of the case for Washington, the hearing was attended by Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, and Senator Thom Tillis from Brunson's home state of North Carolina.

In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that if the US wants Brunson freed, it should extradite Gulen.

We are very disappointed.

He had earlier told the judge tearfully: 'I want to return my home. In court he told her: 'I am going insane. "For 16 months, I have been separated from my wife". "I was never involved in any illegal activities", he said. "I want truth to come out", he said, according to Reuters.

"I do not accept the charges mentioned in the indictment".

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"I've never done something against Turkey", Brunson said, rejecting the charge of his involvement in the Gulen Movement.

And the dustup includes amid worries among your USA along with Turkey over the battle in Syria, wherever Turkish officers also have claimed that the U.S.is intentionally stalling the struggle contrary to Islamic Condition militants.

Prosecutors accused Brunson of using missionary activities as a cover to work with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and with the organization of Fethullah Gulen, a US -based Turkish cleric who Turkey says orchestrated a 2016 coup attempt. "I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years", the Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted Brunson as saying.

The Brunson case has further hiked tensions between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the United States, with US President Donald Trump raising the issue in talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

President Donald Trump has raised the issue of Brunson's false imprisonment on several occasions with Erdogan, who has jailed thousands of Turks as part of a widespread crackdown following the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

"The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey", Brownback told reporters.

Senator Tillis said there was "no deal", adding: "This is about what we believe is an innocent man who has been in prison for a year and a half".

Brunson bluntly rejected the Turkish government's claim that he, as a Christian, would be working for Gulen's group, an Islamic movement. "I am a Christian pastor".

Gulen denies any role in the 2016 coup, which killed 250 people.

Brownback described the trial as a "religious freedom case".

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