Top court rejects US pastor’s petition, citing expiry of legal period for filing

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has rejected an individual petition claiming a violation of rights from a US pastor who was convicted on terrorism-related charges in Turkey in 2018, on the grounds that he did not file his application within the legally required period of 30 days after his release from prison, the Anka news agency reported on Thursday.

In October 2018 a Turkish court convicted American pastor Andrew Brunson of aiding terrorism but sentenced him to time served and ordered his immediate release.

Brunson had been behind bars for two years on bogus terrorism and espionage-related charges. Prosecutors accused the pastor of being linked to both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Muslim cleric Turkish authorities claim orchestrated a failed coup in 2016 despite his strong denial. He had been put under house arrest in July 2018 for reasons of health, but his arrest strained relations between Turkey and the United States.

Brunson filed the petition at the top court, claiming that his rights to liberty and security were violated due to his prolonged detention as well as measures related to his release on judicial probation.

However, the court rejected his application unanimously on the grounds that Brunson filed his petition 99 days after his release from prison rather than the 30 days required by law.

The court also said the judicial probation measures, which were taken by two high criminal courts in İzmir where Brunson stood trial were appropriate given the fact that Brunson is a foreign national and was considered a flight risk.

When Brunson was moved to house arrest, he was ordered to wear an electronic bracelet at all times and barred from traveling outside the country.

Turkish prosecutors had sought a 35-year sentence for Brunson, who they accused of spying and supporting terrorists under the cover of humanitarian aid and interfaith dialogue. That request was later reduced to 10 years at the trial.

He was swept up in the wave of arrests that followed a botched military coup in Turkey in 2016 during which hundreds of thousands of people — including artists, intellectuals and ordinary Turks — were detained.

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