Imprisoned US missionary Pastor Andrew Brunson is to remain behind bars following a court hearing today.
Brunson, who has lived and worked in Izmir, Turkey at the Evangelical Presbyterian church there was arrested on October 16, 2016 and has since been accused of aiding the 'Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation' (FETO). He has denied all the charges and his supporters – among them Donald Trump and his religious freedom envoy Sam Brownback – say they are fabricated.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has mounted a widespread purge of anyone seen as having 'Gulenist' sympathies, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people jailed or dismissed from their jobs.
According to World Watch Monitor, the court heard today from four witnesses: three for the prosecution, and one for the defence. Brunson's lawyer's request for his first choice defence witness was bypassed, so another witness appeared.
Brunson's supporters had hoped he might be freed from prison today following a rapprochement between Erdogan and President Donald Trump, who has lobbied for his release and tweeted he was being 'persecuted in Turkey for no reason'. Turkey has also been threatened with sanctions.
Brunson faces 35 years in prison if he is found guilty.
Bill Campbell, Pastor of Hendersonville (N.C.) Presbyterian Church, attended the hearing in Aliaga, Turkey. 'As usual, there was much spurious testimony against Andrew,' he told World Watch Monitor. 'Andrew's testimony was absolutely powerful. He presented the gospel with confidence and defended himself with boldness. The court allowed for the first time a favourable witness, and one who was to speak against him actually spoke in Andrew's favour. It felt like they had decided the outcome before the trial.'