Turkey distances itself from Iran, Russia and USA on Syria

Senior US official briefs Turkey on Syria situation

Andrew Craig Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina, faces up to 35 years in prison on charges of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member" and "espionage". I've been praying for Turkey for 25 years.

Mr Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, serving as pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, was among those swept up in a massive crackdown by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following the failed coup.

His trial opened in the town of Aliaga, some 38 miles north of the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, a year and half after his arrest, with court officials reading the prosecutors' indictment.

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis and Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedoms, observed the trial.

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Brunson's trial is one of several legal cases roiling U.S.

Washington has called for Brunson's release while Erdogan suggested a year ago his fate could be linked to that of US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose extradition Ankara has repeatedly sought to face charges over the coup attempt.

"Turkey's Syria policy isn't to stand with or against any country".

Gulen denies any association with the coup bid. "There is no change to the policy Turkey has been carrying out", Mr Bozdag told reporters.

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Ismail Cem Halavurt stated Andrew Brunson, detained faced the &ldquordquo; control of aiding a terrorist association and should really be freed at rsquo & Monday.

The indictment says the charges are based on evidence obtained from Brunson's phone, as well as information from witnesses.

Halavurt claimed he believed Brunson would ultimately be acquitted, and there was no reason behind his continuing detention during trial.

Mr Brunson's daughter, Jacqueline Furnari, told a United States commission investigating the crackdown in Turkey that she had postponed her wedding in her father's absence.

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