Turkish Judge Dismisses Witnesses for American Pastor on Trial for Terrorism Ties

Turkey court rules to keep US pastor in detention

The resumption of the trail in a Turkish Court on Monday where an American pastor faces 35 years in prison for his alleged ties to terrorism ended after one day, with the judge dismissing all of the witness testimony in support of Andrew Brunson and left him behind bars until the next hearing in July.

“We leave the courthouse with serious concerns,” Sandra Jolley, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF ) said in a statement following the conclusion of the hearing.

“Today’s eleven hours of proceedings were dominated by wild conspiracies, tortured logic, and secret witnesses, but no real evidence to speak of. Upon these rests a man’s life,” Jolley said. “Worse still, the judge’s decision at the conclusion of today’s hearing to dismiss all of the witnesses called by Pastor Brunson’s defense without listening to a single minute of their testimony is simply unconscionable.”

Along with Jolley, U.S. embassy charge d’affaires Philip Kosnett was in the courtroom for Monday’s proceedings.

Brunson has already been in prison for more than 18 months after he was accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in Pennsylvania, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist, U.S.-designated terrorist group.

Ankara blames Gulen for organizing the failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, a claim Gulen has denied.

On March 13, Turkish prosecutors indicted Brunson on terrorism and espionage-related charges and the first hearing took place on April 16.

As Breitbart News reported, Brunson, who hails from North Carolina, led a Christian mission and church in Turkey for more than 20 years.

Other U.S. officials have also called for Brunson’s release, including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Brunson’s release when he spoke recently to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Christianity Today reported.

In 2018, USCIRF put Turkey in the Tier 2 category for violations of religious freedom as a part of its Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that a secret witness testified anonymously against Brunson on Monday, claiming he helped outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and wanted to help start at Kurdish state.

AP reported:

Brunson rejected the claims in the second session of his trial on May 7, insisting that he “never permitted politics in church.”

He rejected all the accusations directed against him during the first hearing last month in the town of Aliağa, north of Izmir, and from time to time broke down in tears.

“I haven’t done anything against Turkey,” Brunson told the judge. “On the contrary I love Turkey.”

“I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years,” Brunson said.

The case is expected to be taken up again on July 18.

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