USA pastor denies allegations of coup links as Turkey trial begins

Pastor Andrew Brunson is said to have lost 12kg while in custody

Pastor Andrew Brunson is said to have lost 12kg while in custody

I love Turkey. I've been praying for Turkey for 25 years.

Turkey on 16 April hit back at French President Emmanuel Macron over his comments that the weekend's air strikes against the Syrian regime had driven a wedge between Ankara and its increasingly close ally Moscow. He was arrested in October 2016 while running the Resurrection Church in the western city of Izmir.

"I do not accept the charges mentioned in the indictment".

"The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey", Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters during a recess at the trial. The trial is one of several legal cases which have damaged ties between Turkey and the US. The United States has repeatedly asked Turkey to release him, including a demand from U.S. President Donald Trump to "expeditiously" return the pastor.

Erdogan fired back at Washington, demanding that the US return Gulen to Turkey. Gulen denies any role in the failed coup.

An American pastor imprisoned in Turkey since December 2016 went on trial Monday, facing up to 35 years in prison.

Brunson's lawyer said the pastor, detained 18 months ago, was in custody because of his religious beliefs.

"Turkey's Syria policy isn't to stand with or against any country".

The Izmir prosecutor's office said that sufficient evidence had been obtained to charge Brunson with aiding armed terrorist organisations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage.

He was arrested in the aftermath of a failed military coup in 2016, for alleged links to both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and a network led by USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Turkey for the coup attempt.

Furnari said she isn't sure why her father was arrested.

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