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U.S. pastor in Turkey on trial for terror ties

Senior US official briefs Turkey on Syria situation

The ACLJ, who have taken on Brunson's case, says the SC native had no prior run-ins with the Turkish government and had been sharing the gospel there 23 years. If convicted, he risks up to 35 years in jail. The trial begins today in Aliaga, a town in western Turkey.

Monday's court session is going to be appreciated by NY senator Thom Tillis and also USA envoy for religious freedom Sam Brownback. Both are designated terror groups in Turkey.

Brunson was indicted based on evidence provided in part by three secret informants accusing him of acting in coordination with Gulen's organization as well as the PKK.

The latest indictment explicitly states he is not charged with being a member of Gulen's group or the PKK.

Halavurt told AFP News that "there is no use in pushing this case on political grounds".

An American clergyman has gone on trial in Turkey accused of links to the 2016 coup attempt and a banned Kurdish terrorist group in a case that threatens to undermine relations between Ankara and Washington.

ANKARA: does not stand with or against any country on and its policy in the region is different from that of Iran, Russia and the, deputy Prime Minister Bekir said on Monday.

The Turkish authorities accuse the leader of the Hizmet (FETO) movement, Fethullah Gulen, who resides in the U.S., of being involved in an attempted military coup, and demand the USA to extradite him. Since his arrest, White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, have repeatedly pressed Turkey to release him.

Gulen, now lives in exile in Pennsylvania, and in a speech a year ago Erdogan appeared to suggest Brunson could be traded for Gulen.

Brunson's lawyer said the pastor, detained 18 months ago, was in custody because of his religious beliefs. You have a preacher (Gulen) there.

"We think we can debunk these claims tomorrow", Brunson's lawyer said.

Washington has called for Brunson's release while Erdogan suggested previous year his fate could be linked to that of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose extradition Ankara has repeatedly sought to face charges over the coup attempt. However, Donald Trump, US president, has raised the issue directly with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president.

Yet Washington has always rejected the notion of any kind of bargaining over Brunson. "There is a victim and we must first of all assure his right to freedom and security", said Halavurt.

His wife Norine, who was detained with him and then released in December 2016, was also present in court for the hearing.