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Court: ‘US Pastor Brunson Imposed Ideas of Terrorist Groups at Church’

A Turkish court released its detailed ruling in the trial of American pastor Andrew Brunson, whose detention in Turkey on “espionage” charges was responsible for a recent diplomatic crisis with the U.S., saying that he conducted “separatist activities” and “imposed ideas of terrorist groups” on visitors of his church, Turkish media reported on Thursday.

Brunson, who was held in a Turkish prison between since December 2016, was released last month and returned to his home country on the same day of his release. He was sentenced to three years in prison, after prosecutors originally sought for 35 years’ imprisonment.

However he was released taking into account the time he served and his good conduct during the trial. The court in the western province of Izmir lifted his house arrest and travel ban at the sentencing hearing held on October 12.

A detailed verdict by the court was issued on Thursday, accusing Brunson of “supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) and its Syrian offshoot People’s Protection Units (Y.P.G.) and imposing their ideas on those who came to his church.”

It was alleged in the ruling that the Evangelical pastor and a group of individuals he supported had “intentions that go beyond teaching religion.”

Noting that he had contacts with members of Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (F.E.T.O.), a name used by the Turkish government to refer to the Gulen movement which it blames for the 2016 coup attempt, it was claimed in the document that in a text message he sent on July 21, six days after the coup attempt, Brunson said: “We had been waiting for a while for some incidents that would rock Turks.”

The judge concluded that Brunson’s view on Turkey’s failed coup attempt was “parallel to those of F.E.T.O.” To back this statement, the court decision cited Brunson’s use of the word “purge” in his communications when referring to the government’s crackdown on the dissident following the coup and his description of it as “going towards a one-man regime.”

Brunson was at the center of a recent diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the U.S., which resulted in President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatening Turkey with “consequences”, demanding the pastor’s immeditate release.

With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refusing to free Brunson,Turkey placed the pastor under house arrest in July due to U.S. pressure.

The move did not stop the U.S. from introducing a number of economic sanctions on Turkey, which promptly retaliated. 

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