Trump calls for Turkey to release US pastor accused of spying

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On Wednesday night, Trump tweeted: “A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him.”

The US government, including the President, has previously urged Turkey to release Brunson. In April, Trump tweeted about the pastor: “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.”

Wednesday’s call comes after a court ordered him held until an October resumption of his case.

Turkey lifts state of emergency, two years after coup almost toppled Erdogan

Brunson, a North Carolina native, was arrested in October 2016 in Izmir, where he served as a pastor at the Izmir Resurrection Church.

The evangelical Presbyterian pastor was charged with plotting to overthrow the Turkish government, disrupting the constitutional order and espionage.

In March, he was formally charged with espionage and having links to terrorist organizations. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison.

Erdogan has said Brunson is undergoing a fair judicial process and “is not a hostage.” He has accused the United States of politicizing a judicial matter and has called on Washington to approve the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania whom the Turkish government accuses of being behind a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

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