Turkish prosecutors have handed an official indictment to US pastor Andrew Brunson, accusing the imprisoned minister of using 'Christianisation' as a veneer to enact 'warfare' against Turkey's government.
Brunson has been imprisoned since his arrest in October 2016, and now faces as many as 35 years in jail, accused of terrorist espionage against the state. Now the conservative legal defense group American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has reported that Brunson has been handed an official indictment that accuses Brunson of seeing Turkey's President Erdoğan as the 'antichrist'.
'The indictment against Pastor Andrew is a 62-page document which claims that his crime is "Christianization" acting as "an agent of unconventional warfare" under the "mask of an evangelical church pastor,"' said ACLJ attorney Cece Heil.
'It is now clearer than ever that Turkey is targeting Pastor Andrew specifically because of his Christian faith.' A substantial part of the document is the account of a 'secret witness' named 'Dua' or 'prayer', who 'gives his interpretation of Christianity', Heil said.
'Within the roughly 25 pages containing his preposterous allegations, he opines that "In the Christian faith; the beginning of the battle known as Armageddon is mentioned." He goes on to say that Protestants believe that President Erdoğan is the antichrist and that American Protestants are "counting on being forerunners in the war to come..."'
It adds that this 'war' will be begun by Israel. Heil wrote: 'Such claims are not only a gross mischaracterization of Christianity, but offensive. Pastor Andrew has spent over 23 years of his life peacefully serving the people of Turkey as a Christian pastor, and should not be imprisoned for simply living out his faith.'
Brunson is currently awaiting is first trial date on April 16. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the Trump administration, which has previously advocated for Brunson's release, is offering incentives to Turkey to ensure the release of Brunson.
The administration has been pressuring US lawmakers not to implement legislation that would ban US entry for Turkish officials connected to Mr Brunson's detention. President Trump reportedly also raised Brunson's case with President Erdoğan in a recent call.
Last year Brunson gave a statement urging Trump to take a tough stance on Turkey.
'Let the Turkish government know that you will not cooperate with them in any way until they release me,' he wrote.
'I would consider him a political prisoner,' said Republican Senator Thom Tillis, who visited the pastor last week. 'What we are trying to do is strike a balance with a country we want to maintain good relations with and an indictment that is really beyond the pale.'
Before his arrest Brunson had lived in Turkey for more than two decades and led a small Protestant church in Izmir with his wife Norine. He has denied all the charges against him and it is believed he is being used as a bargaining chip in Turkey's efforts to secure the extradition of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. President Erdogan has blamed the preacher for the failed 2016 coup against him.