US Istanbul Consulate Officials Visit Pastor Brunson While Under House Arrest
A pastor and an attorney from the U.S. Istanbul Consulate visited American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been under house arrest on charges of “espionage” and “terrorism” in Turkey’s western province of Izmir, the Dogan news agency reported on Tuesday.
Following an hour-long meeting with Brunson, the pair walked out of the house, where the pastor is being held, and without speaking to the media, they reportedly left in a car bearing an Istanbul license plate number “34”.
Brunson, who recently caused a diplomatic crisis and bilateral economic sanctions between Turkey and the U.S., is accused of “being a spy”.
Prosecutors seek up to 35 years in prison against Brunson for allegedly having ties to the Gulen movement, which the Turkish government blames for the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt and regards as “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO), as well as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Among the accusations attributed to the pastor are “committing crimes on behalf of FETO and PKK under the disguise of a religious figure, and acquiring classified information that is critical to national security for political and military purposes”.
Brunson, who was arrested on December 9, 2016, was released from prison last July and placed under house arrest in response to immense pressure from the U.S. government.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened Turkey with “consequences” in recent months, demanding the pastor’s immeditate release. After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that Turkey has no intention of meeting the demand, the U.S. introduced a number of economic sanctions on the country, which promptly retaliated.
Brunson was last month visited by U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires of Turkish capital of Ankara, Jeffrey Hovenier. The diplomat told the media after his visit that the U.S. reiterated its position to Turkish officials on the pastor’s case and other U.S. citizens under arrest. He added that the U.S. government wants these trials to end without any delay in a fair and clear way.
In the meantime, a recently announced poll conducted by Optimar Research revealed that 65 percent of the Turkish population approve the arrest of Brunson.