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ICC Note: A Turkish court’s indictment charges American Pastor Andrew Brunson with membership in an armed terrorist organization and military espionage and seeks a 35-year prison term. The indictment says that Pastor Brunson used his position as an evangelical church pastor to be an agent of unconventional warfare. Meanwhile, protestant Christians in Turkey report increasing pressures and indirect persecution from the government.

03/24/2018 Turkey (Desert News) – A North Carolina pastor who has been jailed in Turkey will go on trial next month on charges he is a terrorist who used Christianity as his weapon.

That’s according to the indictment issued by a Turkish court earlier this week against Andrew Brunson, 50, who has been held by the Turkish government for a year and a half.

Brunson, a native of Black Mountain, a small town in western North Carolina, has lived and worked in Turkey for nearly 25 years. He faces a possible sentence of 35 years in prison.

Specifically, the Turkish prosecutors charged him with two crimes: membership in an armed terrorist organization and military espionage.

“They’ve basically equated Christianization with terrorism,” said CeCe Heil, executive senior counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice and Brunson’s U.S. attorney.

While Heil said she was not free to share the indictment, which her office translated from Turkish, she said Brunson is accused of being “an agent of unconventional warfare under the mask of being an evangelical church pastor.”

It further said his aim was “to advance the goals of groups designated by the Turkish government as armed terrorist organizations by means of Christianization using religious beliefs and sectarian differences to divide and separate the Turkish people.”

Brunson’s court date has been set for April 16. His Turkish lawyer, Cem Halavert, will represent him in court, Heil said.

Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim, has cracked down on opponents and perceived opponents since a failed July 2016 coup. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the coup and has proposed releasing Brunson if Washington agreed to extradite Gulen to Turkey.

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For interviews with Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org