A Turkish court on Thursday charged American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed in Turkey in October due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, with acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order and overthrow the Turkish Parliament.
According to the Hurriyet daily, the Izmir 2nd Penal Court of Peace ruled on Thursday for the arrest of Brunson, who had already been arrested by a different court over links to the Gulen movement, which is accused by Turkey of being behind a failed coup last year.
Denying all accusations against him, Brunson said he is a person defending Jesus, trying to establish churches in Turkey in accordance wlth the law. “I am not a member of an Islamic movement. I have never seen any member of FETÖ (a derogatory term invented by government to refer to the Gülen movement) in my life,” he said.
Earlier in May, CNN Türk reported that US President Donald Trump asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to secure to release of Brunson during his visit to the White House.
According to CNN Türk, both Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence brought up the issue of Brunson’s release during a meeting between the Turkish and American delegations.
A statement released by the White House also said Trump asked for Brunson’s release three times and his immediate deportation to the US during the meeting with Erdoğan.
Brunson’s lawyer Jay Sekulow, who met with Trump before the Erdoğan meeting, announced that Trump promised to rescue his client from jail.
Brunson, a North Carolina native, has been in custody since October after he and his wife were detained on immigration violation charges. At the time, the Brunsons were running a small Christian church in İzmir. They had lived in Turkey for 23 years.
Brunson’s wife, Norine, was soon released, but the pastor remained in custody and soon saw his charges upgraded to terrorism. Prosecutors have suggested in court hearings that Brunson is being held on suspicion of being a follower of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric living in self-exile in Pennsylvania and whose views inspired the Gülen movement.
Turkey’s president, Erdoğan, has labeled Gülen a terrorist and believes he was behind a failed coup attempt in July, a charge strongly denied by Gülen.