USA pastor Andrew Brunson goes on trial in Turkey today facing up to 35 years in jail after being accused of aiding a terrorist group held responsible for the failed 2016 coup against President Tayyip Erdogan.
American officials have repeatedly requested that Brunson be released - President Donald Trump himself asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to have his government "expeditiously" return the pastor to the U.S.
Brunson, originally from North Carolina, faces as many as 35 years in prison if found guilty.
Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Samuel Dale Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global religious freedom at State Department, attended the opening hearing against Brunson in the Aegean port town of Aliaga to stress the U.S. sensitivity about the case. "I would love for others to join this and pray for Andrew whenever you eat breakfast lunch and dinner - whatever time zone you are in!"
Jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson's wife Norine Brunson (L) arrives for her husband's trial in Aliaga, north of Izmir, on April 16, 2018. "The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey", Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters during a recess at the trial.
Erdogan has mentioned a sort of quid pro quo for Brunson's release, wanting to exchange Brunson for Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen.
The indictment also charges Brunson with revealing state secrets, alleging that he communicated with people who gathered details about gas and railway stations, information which would have strategic importance during a war or occupation.
An American pastor who has been jailed in Turkey for a year and a half denied all charges against him in an emotional first day in court. Gulen has denied any hyperlink into this coup effort in which a lot more than 240 persons were murdered.
Brunson is also accused of espionage for political or military purposes.
"Give him (Gulen) to us", Erdogan said.
ReutersThe high-security prison where Pastor Andrew Brunson is being held in Izmir, Turkey.
Halavurt claimed he believed Brunson would ultimately be acquitted, and there was no reason behind his continuing detention during trial.
Gulen, who now resides in Pennsylvania, has been accused of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government during a 2016 coup.
The centre-left People's Republican Party (CHP) said it organised protests in each of the country's 81 provinces, ahead of a vote Wednesday in parliament on extending the state-of-emergency by another three-months, bringing it to a full two-years.
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