Pastor Brunson’s lawyer plans appeal to Turkey’s Constitutional Court

American Pastor Andrew Brunson.

İsmail Cem Halavurt, the lawyer for American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, who is standing trial in Turkey on terrorism charges, said on Wednesday he planned to appeal to the Constitutional Court to seek his client’s release after being rejected by a lower court last week, according to a report by Reuters.

Brunson is at the center of a row between Turkey and the United States that has exacerbated a crisis in Turkey’s lira and reverberated across global markets. Pastor Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies. He is under house arrest.

“Once the upper court’s rejection has been confirmed in writing, we will apply to the Constitutional Court,” Halavurt said in comments reported by Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper that he confirmed to Reuters.

Once domestic legal avenues are exhausted, if necessary the defense would then apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), he said. “We are hopeful regarding the Constitutional Court, but if it is rejected there, we will go to the ECtHR without hesitation,” he added.

The court in Turkey’s İzmir province which last week rejected the appeal said evidence was still being collected and that the pastor posed a flight risk, according to a copy of the court ruling seen by Reuters.

Abdulkadir Selvi, a Hurriyet newspaper columnist close to the government, likened the constitutional court appeal plan to the case of journalist Mehmet Altan, who took a similar course of action and was released in June after being jailed on charges of aiding coup plotters.

Brunson is accused of terrorism charges and aiding the network of a US-based Islamic preacher blamed by Ankara for masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 against President Tayyip Erdoğan.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, US President Donald Trump said he would give Turkey no concessions in return for the release of Brunson. Ankara has not responded to Trump’s comments. Trump, who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters, has become a vocal champion of the pastor’s case.

On Tuesday, the pro-government Demirören news agency reported that a Turkish prosecutor had issued permission for Brunson to secure a treadmill while under house arrest.

Turkish officials reportedly went to Brunson’s house in the western province of İzmir and installed the treadmill he requested for health purposes. Turkish police were maintaining high security on Brunson’s street during the nine-day Islamic holiday of the Feast of Sacrifice, also known as Eid al-Adha.

Counterterrorism and special forces units as well as motorbike police units known as “dolphins” are on duty at the two entrances to the street. Suspicious people and vehicles are searched at checkpoints.

Bolton: US-Turkey crisis could end ‘instantly’ if Brunson freed

Meanwhile, John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, said on Wednesday that Turkey could end its lira-battering crisis with the United States “instantly” by freeing Brunson, adding that a Qatari cash infusion will not help the Turkish economy.

“Look, the Turkish government made a big mistake in not releasing Pastor Brunson,” Bolton told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Israel. “Every day that goes by that mistake continues, this crisis could be over instantly if they did the right thing as a NATO ally, part of the West, and release pastor Brunson without condition.”

Asked if the United States questioned Turkey’s membership in NATO given the stand-off, Bolton said: “That’s not an issue at the moment. We’re focused on Pastor Brunson and the other Americans that the Turkish government is holding illegitimately, and we expect that to get resolved.”

Qatar’s emir this month approved a package of economic projects, including a $15 billion pledge of support, for Turkey, giving a boost to a lira that has lost some 37 percent of its value this year.

Bolton was skeptical about the intervention by the Gulf state, which has been feuding with US allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. “Well, I think what they pledged is utterly insufficient to have an impact on Turkey’s economy. It’s certainly not helpful, but we’ll actually see what develops from their pledge,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın claimed on Wednesday that the remarks by Bolton regarding Turkey’s economic situation were proof that the US administration is targeting a NATO ally as part of an economic war.

In a written statement responding to an interview which Bolton gave to Reuters, Kalın claimed the US administration’s most recent policies were at odds with the fundamental principles and values of the NATO alliance.

“The Trump administration has … established that it intends to use trade, tariffs, and sanctions to start a global trade war,” Kalın said, pointing to similar disputes with Mexico, Canada, Europe, and China. “Turkey has no intention of starting an economic war with any party. It cannot, however, be expected to keep silent in the face of attacks against its economy and judiciary,” he said.

Kalın said Turkey would work with the rest of the world against restrictive and punitive measures. “The US administration’s most recent policies are at odds with the fundamental principles and values of the NATO alliance,” he defended.

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