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U.S. pastor held in Turkey for his Christian faith, lawyer says

From Reuters - April 15, 2018

IZMIR, Turkey (Reuters) - The lawyer for a U.S. pastor who goes on trial in Turkey on Monday over alleged links to a group accused of orchestrating a failed military coup said the preacher had been arrested for his Christian faith.

Ismail Cem Halavurt said pastor Andrew Brunson, detained 18 months ago, faced the totally unfounded charge of aiding a terrorist organization and should be freed at Mondays hearing in the Mediterranean city of Izmir.

A Christian pastor from North Carolina living in Turkey for 23 years, Brunson has been indicted on charges of helping the group that Turkey holds responsible for the failed 2016 coup against President Tayyip Erdogan.

His trial is one of several legal cases which have strained relations between Turkey and the United States, who are also at odds over U.S. support for a Kurdish militia in northern Syria which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

Mondays court session will be attended by North Carolina senator Thom Tillis and U.S. envoy for religious freedom Sam Brownback.

There is evidence that shows Brunson was arrested due to his faith, Halavurt told Reuters on the eve of the trial, saying Brunsons religious role had been classified as aiding terror organizations.

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