US President Donald Trump voiced his support on Tuesday for Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is on trial in
Turkey on charges he was linked to a group accused of orchestrating a failed 2016 military coup, in a case that has compounded strains in US-Turkish relations.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” Trump tweeted. “They call him a spy, but I am more a spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”
Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of helping the group that Ankara holds responsible for the failed 2016 coup against President Tayyip Erdogan. He faces up to 35 years in prison.
Brunson has been the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, serving a small Protestant congregation in Turkey’s third largest city. Brunson’s trial is one of several legal cases roiling US-Turkish relations. The two countries are also at odds over US support for a Kurdish militia in northern Syria that Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
Washington has called for Brunson’s release while Erdogan suggested last 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.