Turkey: U.S. Pastor Brunson’s Lawyer Appeals to Highest Constitutional Court

Andrew Brunson (Stringer / AFP / Getty)
Stringer / AFP / Getty

The lawyer representing American pastor Andrew Brunson reportedly filed an appeal on Wednesday to the highest legal body for constitutional review in Turkey for his client’s release from house arrest.

Reuters reported on Wednesday, “The filing to the constitutional court – Turkey’s highest – seen by Reuters showed the lawyer had requested the court to rule that Brunson’s right to freedom had been violated and to release him from house arrest.”

Trump administration officials believe Brunson is innocent of the terrorism and espionage charges levied against him by Turkey. The pastor’s detention since October 2016 has further strained relations between the United States and Turkey.

İsmail Cem Halavurt, the pastor’s lawyer, has repeatedly urged appeal courts to release Brunson, to no avail.

On Wednesday, Hurriyet Daily News reported:

The case of Brunson, whose next regular court hearing is on Oct. 12, has become a divisive issue in a worsening diplomatic row between Ankara and Washington, as the U.S. has imposed sanctions against two Turkish ministers and Turkey retaliated.

U.S. President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials made several calls on Turkey for the release of the pastor, who has been living in Turkey for decades leading a church in the Aegean province of İzmir.

In July of this year, Turkish authorities released the American pastor from jail and placed him on house arrest after he served two years behind bars.

Turkey has charged the pastor with links the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) terrorist group and the outlawed Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO).

FETO refers to the organization led by the influential Imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States on a self-imposed exile. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration accuses Gulen of orchestrating the failed July 2016 coup in Turkey.

The U.S. has refused Turkey’s request to extradite Gulen.

According to Pennsylvania State Police, security guards at Gulen’s Pocono Mountains compound opened fire Wednesday morning after seeing an “unwanted person” in the vicinity.

Jacqueline Furnari, the pastor’s daughter, said last month that the indictment describes her father’s crime as “‘Christianization,’ essentially equating it to terrorism and espionage and it is, for the most part, based on secret witnesses’ testimony.”

Brunson, who denies the charges, is facing up to 35 years in jail.

President Erdogan claimed last month a Turkish court, not politicians, would decide Brunson’s fate.

“This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges … On Oct. 12 there will be another hearing, and we don’t know what the court will decide, and politicians will have no say on the verdict,” Erdogan told Reuters on September 25.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently indicated he is hopeful Turkey will release Brunson soon.

“He could be released this month. He should have been released last month – and he should be released today, in fact,” the secretary told reporters on September 24.

“Pastor Brunson and the other U.S. persons that are being held by Turkey all need to be released by Turkey, and that needs to be done immediately,” Pompeo added.

On September 21, the U.S. secretary of state stressed that Brunson “has been wrongly held,” adding, “We are sparing no effort to return Pastor Brunson to the United States … President Trump will never forget about our own.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday that the Trump administration would continue to push for Brunson’s release.

“We certainly would like Pastor Brunson home right away. It’s long overdue,” she said.

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