The trial of U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson began in Izmir, Turkey, on Monday, with the former Protestant church leader declaring that he is innocent and that he has been praying for the Muslim-majority country for 25 years.
“I want the whole truth to be revealed. I reject all the accusations in the indictment. I haven’t been involved in any illegal activity,” Brunson told the court, according to Turkish newspaper The Hürriyet Daily News.
“I haven’t done anything against Turkey. On the contrary, I love Turkey. I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years,” the pastor added.
Brunson was jailed in October 2016 and only recently found out the full extent of the charges against him. He is being accused by the government of seeking to convert Kurdish people to Christianity in order to establish a Kurdish state, which goes against Turkish policy.
The indictment against him also claims that he helped a group led by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim preacher living in the U.S. whom Turkish authorities accuse of staging a failed coup in 2016.
Brunson, originally from North Carolina, faces as many as 35 years in prison if found guilty.
His lawyer in Turkey, Cem Halavurt, has called the charges against him “totally unfounded.”
Halavurt told AFP News that “there is no use in pushing this case on political grounds. There is a victim and we must first of all assure his right to freedom and security.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested in September 2017 that Brunson could be freed in exchange for the U.S. handing over Gulen, though the U.S. has not suggested it is open to such a move.
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Source: Christian Post