American pastor being held in Turkey on terrorism charges denies he was linked to any coup attempt as a court rules he must stay in prison during his trial

Mail Online | 4/16/2018 | Afp
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An American Christian pastor being held in a Turkish prison on terrorism charges will remain in custody during his trial, a court has ruled.

Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, has been detained by Turkish authorities since October 2016.

Church - City - Izmir - Years - Prison

The 50-year-old, who ran a Protestant church in the western city of Izmir, is facing up to 35 years in prison if he is convicted.

Brunson - wearing a black suit, speaking fluent Turkish and sometimes bursting into tears - emphatically rejected all the charges against him at the first hearing at the court in the town of Aliaga on Monday.

Activities - Behalf - Group - Muslim - Preacher

He is accused of engaging in activities on behalf of the group led by exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says is behind a failed 2016 coup, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Both the Gulen movement and the PKK are banned by Turkey as terror groups.

Brunson - Espionage - Purposes

Brunson is also accused of espionage for political or military purposes.

The judge ruled on Monday that Brunson must stay in jail after deeming him to be a flight risk.

Judge - Ruling - Evidence - Witnesses - Case

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

Brunson's next hearing is scheduled for May 7.

Indication - Importance - Case - Washington - Hearing

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

'We are very disappointed. If anything, I think the information that has been presented today creates a more compelling reason why he is innocent,' Tillis told reporters after the ruling.

Brunson - Emotion - Wife - Norine - English

Brunson reacted with emotion, telling his wife Norine in English: 'I am going crazy. I love you.'

He had earlier told the judge tearfully: 'I want to...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Mail Online
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