Lawyer Cem Halavurt said on Wednesday that his client Andrew Brunson, an American pastor standing trial in Turkey, will likely remain under house arrest after his next hearing on October 12.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that Brunson could be released this month, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the courts, not politicians, would decide his fate.
According to a report by Turkish online news outlet Artı Gerçek, Halavurt said: “I do not know on what grounds and on the basis of what information Pompeo made that statement. Some are saying the political situation has eased, but, in my opinion, these are subjective comments.”
Halavurt also said there was much negotiation at the time Brunson was moved from prison to house arrest in July that but talks had now been halted. “President Erdoğan’s statement today also shows this issue will stay in limbo,” Halavurt said.
The United States last month imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Turkey in response to the detention of Brunson and other US citizens that President Donald Trump says are being held as hostages.
Brunson was arrested in October 2016 and later charged with alleged links to the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“This is a judicial matter. Brunson was detained on terrorism charges,” Erdoğan said on Wednesday and added, “On Oct. 12 there will be another hearing, and we don’t know what the court will decide. Politicians will have no say in the verdict.”
Turkey eyeing Mormons as next target after Brunson
Meanwhile, Bloomberg wrote on Wednesday that even if Brunson is freed, the threat to Turkey’s Mormons, who prosecutors say Brunson conspired with, will remain.
Turkish prosecutors allege that Kenneth Abney, a retired US special forces major and Mormon missionary, conspired with Brunson “to coordinate a group of malefactors that included not only evangelicals and Mormons — that is, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS)— but also the Muslim Fethullah Gülen faith group, the Kurdish-Marxist PKK terrorist organization, an Israeli, an Iranian, and current and former agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency,’’ Bloomberg said.
While Abney, now 71 and on a Mormon mission in the US, has not been indicted, he remains under investigation. He maintains that he never met Brunson or even knew of his existence until his 2016 arrest.
“There are so many accusations. I think they will start an operation against the other religious groups,” Bloomberg quoted Halavurt, Brunson’s lawyer, as saying.
The pastor is merely a symptom of the rot that has afflicted the Ankara-Washington relationship for years, Bloomberg stressed, with the sides at odds over whether to arm or destroy Kurdish fighters in Syria and the Turkish president deflecting responsibility for a collapsing economy onto what he calls a US-led “economic war.”
The main witness in the Brunson case claims that “an umbrella organization for Christian churches that are led by Mormons but involves the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency controls the deployment of all US Christian missionaries; that they identify each other in the field with a secret handshake, a curl of the middle fingers into the palm; that LDS members sent to infiltrate Turkish military high schools as language teachers all had a finger missing; that Mormons make up 40 percent of the US military stationed overseas; and that evangelicals and Mormons are driven to Turkey by a common desire to bring about the end-of-days prophecies in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, by reuniting the Kurds—the lost 13th tribe of Israel,’’ Bloomberg wrote.