Turkish President Recep Erdogan has responded to the ongoing calls by Christian groups and U.S. President Donald Trump that he release imprisoned U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Referring to demands he has made in the past, Erdogan said Saturday that Brunson’s fate is directly tied with the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania who is accused by the Turkish government of staging a failed military coup in the country in 2016.
“The U.S. is behind [Gulen],” Erdogan told Turkish television news channel NTV, according to Sputnik News on Sunday.
He added that “if you want Brunson, look at the steps you have taken in the past. Why don’t you deport this man in accordance with the extradition treaty?”
The United States has so far refused to extradite Gulen, but has insisted that Turkey hand over Brunson, who is facing up to 35 years in prison if convicted of espionage and terrorism charges.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” Trump tweeted last week.
“They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”
Brunson, who served at a small Protestant church in Izmir for 23 years before he was arrested in October 2016, has firmly denied he was involved in any illegal activities, insisting his only goal was ministering to people.
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Source: Christian Post