US pastor Andrew Brunson faces 35 years in jail, says he's in prison for his faith

Turkish prosecutors have asked for sentences totalling 35 years for US pastor Andrew Brunson, held in prison in Izmir on what are widely regarded as trumped-up espionage charges.

According to the Daily Sabah, Brunson is accused of of committing crimes on behalf of supporters of the banned preacher Fethullah Gulen and of the Kurdish nationalist PKK, and of obtaining classified state information for political and military purposes.

Both groups are regarded as terrorist organisations by Turkey.

Pastor Andrew Brunson with his wife Norine.Facebook/Andrew & Norine Brunson

Brunson was arrested in October 2016 having 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 Gulen from the US; Turkey's President Erdogan has blamed the preacher for the failed 2016 coup against him.

According to the Daily Sabah, a 'secret witness' said the Brunsons were members of Gulen's movement, which funded their church.

The Brunsons' daughter Jacqueline addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week and appealed for her father's release.

She said: 'I know the allegations against my father are absurd. He is not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government. My father is a peaceful pastor.'

Stressing she had herself grown up in Turkey, she said: 'My family loves and respects the Turkish people, and my father has been dedicated to serving them for over two decades.'

She had been allowed to visit her father last August and said it was 'hard to see him so broken, so thin, so desperate'.

She read a note he had written a week before in which he said: Let it be clear. I am in prison not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am – a Christian pastor. I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet I believe this to be true: it is an honour to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have before me. My deepest thanks for all those around the world who are standing with and praying for me.'