Detained US pastor denies Turkey coup links allegations as trial begins

American Pastor on Trial for Supporting Terror Groups Raises Tension Between US and Turkey

Washington has known for Brunson's re lease though Erdogan suggested this past season his fate might possibly be associated with that of USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose extradition Ankara has sought to face charges within the coup endeavor.

A USA pastor began trial in Turkey Monday on charges he aided in the military coup attempt almost two years ago.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, rejects the accusations.

The relationship between the United States and Turkey is likely to come under pressure as long as a USA pastor remains in jail, a US official responsible for global religious freedom said on Monday. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedoms were observing the trial, Turkey's private Dogan news agency reported. That has created festering frustration in the Turkish government, which has hunted down tens of thousands of alleged Gulen supporters and either imprisoned them or fired them from government jobs. The prosecution is seeking a jail sentence of up to 35 years.

US officials have repeatedly called for Brunson's released, and President Donald Trump has asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to have his government "expeditiously" return the pastor to the U.S. "You can give him right away", Erdogan said in September. I want the truth to come out", Reuters quoted Brunson as telling the court. "I do not accept the charges mentioned in the indictment.

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Turkey has submitted an extradition request to the USA for Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, but so far it not been granted.

A replicate of Brunson's indictment noticed by Reuters accuses him of doing work together with Gulen's community and also the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has battled an insurgency in southeast Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the United States and eu.

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

At the Resurrection Church in Izmir, the congregation prayed on Sunday for Brunson, and his wife Norine read out a message in which he talked of the darkness and silence of his detention.

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