Turkish Court Rejects Appeal For US Pastor’s Release

Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson (R), escorted by Turkish plain clothes police officers as he arrives at his house on July 25, 2018 in Izmir. STRINGER / AFP


A Turkish court on Tuesday rejected an appeal to release from house arrest a US pastor whose detention on terror-related charges has strained relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington, state media reported.

The court in the Aegean region of Izmir rejected an appeal by the lawyer of Andrew Brunson, who ran a Protestant church, for him to leave house arrest and have his travel ban removed, state-run Anadolu news agency said.


The court had last week ordered that Brunson, who had spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016, be moved from jail to house arrest at his home in Izmir.

But the move stoked tensions rather than defusing the crisis, with US media reports accusing Turkey of reneging on a deal to free him, which Ankara has denied.

Last week US President Donald Trump threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if the pastor was not freed, following similar warnings from his Vice President Mike Pence.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that sanction threats would not force Ankara to take a “step back”, in comments reported on Sunday.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin later said Turkey would not give into threats. “It is not possible to accept in any way threatening language against Turkey,” Kalim told reporters in Ankara after a cabinet meeting.

– ‘International project’ –

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been tense over multiple issues including American support for a Syrian Kurdish militia who Turkey claims are terrorists as well as the failure to extradite US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara accuses Gulen of organising the July 2016 failed coup, claims which he denies.

Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two organisations Turkey deems to be terror groups: the Gulen movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Brunson denies the charges while US officials have repeatedly stressed that Brunson is innocent. Trump has previously called the pastor a “fine gentleman”.

Brunson is one of several American nationals caught up in the crackdown after the attempted putsch two years ago.

NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual national, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in February for being a member of Gulen’s movement. Two employees from American missions in Turkey remain in custody and another under house arrest.

The next hearing in Brunson’s trial is on October 12.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during this week’s meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Washington in June threatened to block the delivery of F-35 stealth jets to Turkey if Ankara purchased Russia’s S-400 air defence system, but Erdogan has said Turkey would seek international arbitration if the delivery did not go through.

“This is an international project with several partners. This is not a project executed by the United States alone,” Kalin said, adding that Turkey was a partner.

He also said that Ankara had legal ways to challenge any block on the delivery because there were agreements in place.


Turkish Court Rules To Keep U.S. Pastor In Jail As Trial Continues


A Turkish court has ruled to keep in jail an American pastor being tried on terrorism and spying charges, a case which has deepened a rift between two NATO allies.

Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of helping the group that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup against President Tayyip Erdogan, as well as supporting outlawed PKK Kurdish militants.

The next hearing for the trial is scheduled for October 12.

Turkish Court Convicts Police Officer For Nigerian’s Manslaughter

Festus Okey

Festus Okey was detained in August 2007 on charges of drug possession and died from a gunshot wound at the central Beyoglu station. The shot was fired from Cengiz Yildiz’ gun but the officer has since claimed it was an accident.

Human rights groups condemned the bureaucratic obstacles that held up the trial into the death of Festus Okey, who was shot after being detained at an Istanbul police station in August 2007.

The officer would have faced a life sentence if found guilty of murdering Okey.

Stenciled portraits in memory of the slain Nigerian are still spray-painted on some streets and alleys of Istanbul.

The absence of security controlled camera footage as well as the inability of the police to produce the shirt the Nigerian wore at the time of his death further complicated the case.

Okey was not represented by a lawyer in the case due to a dispute over his identity.

In a recent report, The European Union criticized the persistent lack of thorough investigations into alleged extra-judicial killings by law enforcement officers.

It pointed to slow progress in the Okey case and criticised the absence of an independent police complaints mechanism.

“Law enforcement officers found guilty of torture, ill-treatment or fatal shootings received short or suspended sentences,” the report said