Prosecutor accuses Gülen movement of spreading Christianity in Turkey

Fethullah Gülen (L) and Andrew Brunson.

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 İzmir prosecutor Berkan Karakaya wrote in the indictment that was accepted on March 17 by the İzmir 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.

Meanwhile, Jay Sekulow, a member of Donald Trump’s personal legal team, has taken to Twitter to urge his followers to, “Read, RT and pray” for an American pastor held in a Turkish prison.

Pastor Andrew Brunson, a long-time Turkish resident was initially detained in October 2016 on charges of membership in the Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities consider a terrorist organization. The charges, which carry the possibility of a life sentence, were later amended to include spying and attempting to overthrow the government.

Brunson’s trial is scheduled to start in April.

Sekulow, on Saturday once again sent a tweet about Pastor Brunson’s upcoming trial in Turkey. Sekulow’s tweet links to an article posted on the American Center for Law and Justice’s (ACLJ) website that describes the indictment against Brunson as, “wholly lacking merit” and containing no evidence of criminal activities. Rather, it says the charges show that Turkey considers “Christianization” to be an act of terror.

Sekulow is the chief counsel of the ACLJ, a conservative, Christian flavoured non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Autocratic Turkish 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 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.

The daily said Brunson talks to a young adult six years ago and implies that there will be a coup in the summer of 2016. Brunson also gives him a survival kit for use during an emergency, including a water purifier, high-calorie pills to be used in the event of a lack of food and mufflers worn by US Special Forces.

According to the report, Brunson says: “There will be a huge earthquake [in Turkey] in the summer months of 2016. Hide those things [the survival kit] in a place you can reach [in difficult times]. And meet me at the US Consulate General in İstanbul after that earthquake.”

The pro-Erdoğan Takvim daily on May 20 accused Brunson, whose release US President Donald Trump sought from Turkish President Erdoğan, of being behind a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, claiming that he would be the CIA chief if the coup attempt had been successful.

According to the top story on Takvim’s front page, Brunson is a “high-level CIA agent” and also a “high-level member of the Gülen movement,” which Erdoğan has labeled as a terrorist organization and which he accuses of masterminding the failed coup. The arrest of the pastor has paralyzed CIA operations in Turkey, according to the article, and the US has been exerting all means to save him.

Takvim’s editor-in-chief, Ergun Diler, who accompanied Erdoğan during a visit to Washington, D.C., in May, also published a column about Brunson with the title “Rambo Pastor,” claiming that the pastor foiled an assassination attempt in 2011 in İzmir due to his agent training.

“Brunson was a ‘deep’ name, and he was influential not only in Turkey but all over the region,” Diler wrote and claimed the CIA would kill him in prison if they believed that Turkey would not deport him to the US.

Takvim is a daily of the Turkuvaz media group, which was run by Serhat Albayrak, brother of Berat Albayrak, energy minister and the son-in-law of President Erdoğan. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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