Turkey seeks life sentence for U.S. pastor
Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a U.S. pastor accused of participating in the 2016 coup that attempted to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A private Turkish media outlet reported the news Tuesday after getting a look at the indictment. Prosecutors must win approval from a court before they can pursue the case.
Andrew Brunson, who has pastored a church in Turkey for 23 years, has been jailed since October 2016. The indictment reportedly charges Brunson with being a member of and leading a terror organization. Turkish government officials accuse him of having ties to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in Pennsylvania. U.S. officials have denied Turkish requests to extradite Gulen, who denies involvement in the failed coup. Brunson also denies any involvement in the coup, as well as any links to Gulen. Erdogan has offered to free Brunson in exchange for Gulen.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned the indictment, urging the Trump administration to redouble its efforts to secure Brunson’s freedom. “No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American,” USCIRF Vice Chairwomen Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga said in a statement. “We call again for his immediate release and, if this is not forthcoming, for the administration and Congress to impose targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice.”
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