Detained US pastor denies Turkey coup links allegations as trial begins

American Pastor on Trial for Supporting Terror Groups Raises Tension Between US and Turkey

Andrew Brunson, of Black Mountain, N.C., has spent 23 years living in Turkey with his wife, daughter and two sons.

Despite Turkey's cooperation with the likes of Russian Federation and Iran - Mr Assad's main supporters - to abate Syria's ongoing war, Ankara has been vocal about wanting to see the president gone and has even backed rebels against him.

The couple ran a Christian church in the Aegean city of Izmir.

The 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina was arrested in December 2016 for alleged links to both an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and the network of the US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

"I do not accept the charges mentioned in the indictment". The trial is one of several legal cases which have damaged ties between Turkey and the US.

USA officials have repeatedly called for Brunson's released, and President Donald Trump has asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to have his government "expeditiously" return the pastor to the U.S.

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USA relations with Turkey have soured recently over a number of issues, including what the US sees as Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the claim. Tens of thousands of Turks have been arrested or lost their jobs over alleged connections with the coup bid.

Aliaga: An American pastor is going on trial in Turkey accused of ties to terror groups and spying, in a case that has strained ties between Turkey and the United States.

Brunson's lawyer said the pastor, detained 18 months ago, was in custody because of his religious beliefs.

Bozdag said: 'Turkey's Syria policy is not a policy of being on the same side or being opposed to another country.

A copy of Brunson's indictment seen by Reuters accuses him of working both with Gulen's network and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group which has waged an insurgency in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.

Furnari said she isn't sure why her father was arrested. "We want Brunson to be freed immediately".

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