U.S. pastor faces life in prison as coup suspect, Turkish TV reports

Tuesday , March 13, 2018 - 7:55 AM

Selcan Hacaoglu

(c) 2018, Bloomberg.

An American pastor jailed in Turkey may face life in prison in connection with the 2016 coup attempt, according to an indictment that may further strain ties with Washington.

Andrew Brunson, who was jailed in the government purges that followed the botched putsch, was charged with espionage and attempting to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government, Haberturk television said Tuesday. The counts carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, the channel said. A court will decide whether to accept the indictment and send him to trial, the channel said.

“We have seen the stories. We are working to verify the information,” U.S. Embassy spokesman David Gainer said in an emailed statement. The U.S. has been trying to secure the pastor’s release, and high-ranking officials have brought up the case in meetings with Turkish leaders.

The charges add to a series of disputes already hurting Turkey’s relations with the U.S. Turkish authorities have demanded the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric they blame for the July 2016 coup attempt, and have arrested U.S. consular staff they accuse of supporting it. Erdogan has suggested swapping the two clerics, though Prime Minister Binali Yildirim later ruled out an exchange.

“I know the allegations against my father are absurd,” Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday as she sought help to secure her father’s release, according to American Center for Law and Justice. “He is not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government. My father is a peaceful pastor.”

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