A secret witness testified against the U.S. pastor held by Turkish authorities, claiming he aided Kurdish militants trying to establish a Kurdish Christian state.
Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson of North Carolina ardently denied the claim on Monday during his second trial session, saying he worked to “prevent politics to enter the church” and there was absolutely no evidence to suggest his church had any links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (or PKK), according to The Associated Press. The secret witness, code name: “Serhat,” testified via long distance and alleged Brunson aided Kurdish militants in Turkey and those who were fighting in Syria and was helped in doing so by a Kurdish Christian convert.
“These accusations are shameful and disgusting. There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the (Izmir) Resurrection Church. Our church had several Turkish followers. Our doors were open to everyone. I strived to prevent politics entering the church,” Brunson said, according to AP.
Turkish authorities arrested Brunson in the aftermath of the failed 2016 military coup in Turkey. Brunson has lived in Turkey, serving as a minister since 1993 and helped plant several churches. Authorities accuse Brunson of being an active member of the PKK and of aiding an Islamic movement led by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for the coup. Brunson used his work as a minister as a cover for espionage activities against Turkey, local authorities also alleged. Erdogan has attempted to use Brunson as leverage to force the U.S. to extradite Gülen.
President Donald Trump ridiculed Turkish authorities for persecuting Brunson and for levying what he sees as spurious claims, saying, “They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is.” Trump demanded Turkey release Brunson swiftly and allow him to return to the U.S.
Brunson, after denying the new claims against him, requested he be allowed to leave the prison and said he wanted to “go home.”
Brunson’s trial is adjourned until July 18. He will remain imprisoned until that time, Turkish authorities ruled.
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