A Turkish prosecutor on Tuesday requested life imprisonment for detained American pastor Andrew Brunson over alleged links to a failed coup attempt in 2016, the private Dogan news agency said.
In 2017, President Tayyip Erdogan had suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if the U.S. handed over a Fethulla Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Ankara blames for the attempted military putsch.
Brunson was charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” “gathering state secrets for espionage, attempting to overthrow the Turkish parliament and government, and to change the constitutional order.
A Dec. 14, 2016 Sabah daily news story based on an informant said Brunson, while dispensing aid among Syrian refugees, tried to divide Turkey with sermons praising Gulenism and by speaking in support of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The newspaper Takvim alleges Brunson, a “high-level member of the Gulen movement” and an American spy, positioned to have become CIA chief in Turkey had the 2016 coup attempt succeeded.
Takvim’s editor-in-chief, Ergun Diler, alleged that Brunson fended off an attempt to assassinate him by the use of skills derived from his intelligence agency training, and that Brunson was influential all over the region.
According to a February 2017 letter to Erdoghan signed by 78 members of the U.S. Congress, “There appears to be no evidence to substantiate the charges against him for membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
On 28 September 2017, Erdoğan said the U. S. should exchange Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Gülen with Brunson, saying “You have a pastor too. Give him to us…. Then we will try [Brunson] and give him to you..
Brunson has denied the charges against him,
“I am not a member of an Islamic movement. I have never seen any member of FETÖ [the Gulen movement] in my life,” he said