US Leader held in Turkey for his Christian Beliefs, lawyer says

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

Washington officials say Ankara is using Brunson's case to force the U.S.to extradite the cleric, and they are calling for his release.

His test is one of many valid cases that may have strained relations between Turkey and also the united states of america, that are also at odds over US service to get a Kurdish militia in northern Syria that Turkey considers a terrorist association. Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, rejects the accusations. Brunson denies any wrongdoing. "I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity", Brunson said.

The agency said the pastor delivered his defence statement in Turkish.

Monday's court session will be attended by North Carolina senator Thom Tillis and USA envoy for religious freedom Sam Brownback. "There is no change to the policy Turkey has been carrying out", Bozdag told reporters in Qatar. "We completely believe (that) Andrew Brunson is innocent".

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He added: "You'll continue to see very high-level USA government interest in this until he is released". The prosecution is seeking a jail sentence of up to 35 years.

The indictment - based on the testimonies of witnesses, including three secret ones, and alleged digital evidence - claims the pastor worked to convert Kurds to Christianity to sow discord.

Jacqueline Furnari, Brunson's daughter, told NBC News her father has been pulled into a "political game between Turkey and the U.S". In a meeting previous year with his Turkish counterpart, U.S. President Donald Trump asked that the government "expeditiously" return the pastor to the U.S. But the appeals have not made much headway. "You can give him right away", Erdogan said in September.

Mr Gulen has denied any involvement in the attempted coup, and the European Union has said it does not share Turkey's view that his network is a terror organisation. 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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