Turkish prosecutors demanded life imprisonment for jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson in an official indictment presented to Izmir’s 2nd Criminal Court on Tuesday.
Brunson is accused of being “a member and executive” of the Islamic movement led by self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, accused of orchestrating the failed July 2016 coup attemptto overthrow the Turkish government.
According to the semi-official news agency Anadolu Ajansi, the formal indictment also charges the pastor with establishing links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and obtaining espionage information for political and military purposes.
If the indictment is accepted by the court, formal trial proceedings are expected to be set in motion against Brunson. To date, neither the pastor nor his lawyer have been allowed any access to the legal file of investigations conducted by Turkish authorities into his case.
Commenting on the indictment, the two vice chairs of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga, said:
USCIRF urges President Trump and others in the administration to redouble their ongoing efforts to secure Pastor Brunson’s release. No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American.
We call again for his immediate release and, if this is not forthcoming, for the administration and Congress to impose targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice.
“USCIRF is appalled that Turkish officials are seeking a possible life sentence for Pastor Brunson and are accusing him of leadership in a terrorist organization,” they added.
“The government of Turkey has detained Pastor Brunson largely based on a purported ‘secret witness’ and secret evidence, which they refuse to make public. The Turkish government should reverse course immediately and we urge the international community to condemn this indictment.”
World Watch Monitor reported this week that, despite being detained for 17 months, the Turkish judiciary had failed to release any formal indictment against him.
His daughter, Jacqueline, appealed to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week to help secure her father’s release. Declaring that he had been “falsely imprisoned for far too long,” his married daughter noted that Brunson decried that he had “still not been formally charged with any crime”.