Jailed American pastor tried in Turkey

ALIAGA, Turkey — The trial of American pastor Andrew Brunson on charges of terrorism and espionage began April 16.

Brunson, 50, has served in Turkey for 23 years and was serving as pastor of a small Presbyterian congregation in the coastal city of Izmir when he was arrested. He denied all the charges against him on the first day of court, after which the judge sent Brunson to a prison described as “overcrowded and extremely grim” by an attorney for Brunson.

Brunson’s case will resume May 7. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted.

Brunson’s trial began despite efforts by U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, according to the White House.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested a prisoner swap but U.S. officials say they believe Brunson is innocent and trust Turkey’s judicial system also will come to that conclusion.

Both U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis were in the courtroom April 16. (TAB)