Turkish court keeps US pastor in jail, Washington says deeply concerned

Paramilitary police and special force members escort former Air Force commander Akin Ozturk outside the courthouse as nearly 500 suspects including a number of generals and military pilots accused of leading the failed July 2016 coup attempt and carryin

"I am innocent of all the allegations, but I know why I am here".

A Turkish court on Wednesday rejected appeals from President Trump and other high-level USA officials to release Andrew Brunson, an American pastor of a small Protestant Christian church whose prosecution and imprisonment has exacerbated tensions between the United States and Turkey.

Mr Brunson has been quoted telling the court: "I believe in and support Turkey's territorial integrity". He has been held hostage far too long. Brunson has denied the charges, calling them "shameful and disgusting".

Arriaga was granted access to Brunson past year in Kiriklar Prison in Izmir, Turkey, and along with USCIRF Vice Chairman Sandra Jolley were the first outside of family, legal counsel and U.S. Embassy officials to visit him. "This loving father and husband has been unjustly imprisoned for more than 21 months, and now this travesty could continue for another three months", the organization said Wednesday. I reject them. I know why I am here.

"We believe this case is out of step with those traditions".

Since the coup attempt, Turkey's lira has lost more than a third of its value against the dollar, hit by double-digit inflation and fears that Erdogan - who opposes raising interest rates to curb prices rises - is seeking greater control over the Central Bank.

Ismail Cem Halavurt, the lawyer for Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, hinted that his client soon will be released.

Andrew Brunson in an undisclosed location in Turkey
Andrew Brunson in an undisclosed location in Turkey

In a sign of the level of US interest in the case, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey in a phone call immediately after the proceedings ended Wednesday in a court in Sakran, near the western city of Izmir.

Erdogan has repeatedly requested the extradition of Gulen from the United States, and has suggested that he would hand over Brunson when Gulen, who lives on a guarded estate in Pennsylvania, is sent to Turkey.

I, as well as ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and our senior legal team, are deploying to Washington D.C.to raise his case. A US judge sentenced a Turkish bank executive in May to 32 months in prison for helping Iran evade US sanctions, while two locally employed US.consulate staff in Turkey have been detained.

Turkey says the anti-terror measures are necessary because it is the target of several "terror" groups, including a network of Gulen supporters, Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State group.

The 77-year-old cleric has also called on Ankara to end its "witch hunt" of his followers, a move he says is aimed at "weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime".

But the opposition has been angered by the government's submission of new legislation that apparently seeks to formalize some of the harshest aspects of the emergency.

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