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ICC Note: A Turkish media group run by the son in law of President Erdogan has published a front-page story which heavily implies that the Gülen movement is spreading Christianity as a means to topple the government. Imprisoned Pastor Andrew Brunson has been accused of working with the Gülen movement to facilitate the 2016 coup attempt, leading the prosecutor to seek out a 35-year prison indictment. This kind of hostile language about Christians further increases the pressure which believers face in Turkey.   

03/26/2018 Turkey (Turkish Minute) – An indictment that demands 35 years in prison for American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been jailed in Turkey since October 2016, accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of spreading Christianity through interfaith dialogue, the pro-government Star daily reported on Sunday.

According to the report Izmir prosecutor Berkan Karakaya wrote in the indictment that was accepted on March 17 by the Izmir 2nd High Criminal Court that the Gülen movement supported Brunson in his mission to convert Kurds in Turkey to Christianity.

Based on the testimony of a secret witness, the indictment also claims Brunson worked with the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to establish an independent Kurdish state in Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government pursued a crackdown on the Gülen movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated.

Erdoğan also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Despite the movement strongly denying involvement in the failed coup, Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt targeting the movement following the putsch.

A North Carolina native, Brunson has been in custody since October 2016 after he and his wife were detained on immigration violation charges. At the time, the Brunsons were running a small Christian church in İzmir. They had lived in Turkey for 23 years.

Brunson’s wife, Norine, was shortly released, but the cleric remained in custody and soon saw his charges upgraded to terrorism. Prosecutors have suggested in court hearings that Brunson is being held on suspicion of being a follower of Fethullah Gülen

During a police academy graduation ceremony in Ankara in late September, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said: “They want a pastor [Andrew Brunson] from us, you have a pastor [Fethullah Gülen], too. Extradite him so that we can prosecute him.”

In response to Erdoğan, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “I can’t imagine that we would go down that road.”

The pro-government Yeni Asır daily claimed in October that it had acquired an audio recording in which Brunson speaks back in 2010 about a coup attempt that would take place in 2016.

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