Freed U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson has sided with Turkey in its request to have controversial Islamic cleric Fetullah Gülen, who resides in Pennsylvania, to be extradited.
“If it was up to me, send him to Turkey,” Brunson told the Hürriyet newspaper on Monday.
Brunson was imprisoned for two years in Turkey on terrorism charges, before finally being released in October. The pastor and his wife had served a Protestant congregation in Izmir for nearly 25 years before the arrest.
Brunson denied charges throughout his trial that he assisted anti-government groups behind a failed coup in the summer of 2016 in Turkey, and insisted he was being punished for his faith in Jesus Christ.
Gülen, the Islamic cleric in question, has been protected by the U.S. government since 1990. He has been being accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of staging the failed coup, a charge that he denies.
Erdogan had pressed the U.S. to extradite Gülen during discussions over the potential release of Brunson.
President Donald Trump refused to hand over the cleric, however, and punished Turkey with economic sanctions.
Brunson conveyed a message with the Hürriyet he received by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham while in prison, informing him that the U.S. does not plan on handing over Gülen.
“We want to get you back to America, but we have to go the right way. No barter for you. If we do something like this, it would be a bad precedent and Americans around the world would be at risk. Any regime can refer to this method to get us done,” Brunson quoted Graham as saying.
The question of Gülen’s extradition continues to be debated. Some, such as New York pastor William Devlin of Infinity Bible Church, who attended Brunson’s court hearings in Izmir, have argued that the U.S. should hand him over to Turkey.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Stoyan Zaimov