Andrew Brunson, who could face up to 35 years in jail, denied links to a network led by U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in Turkey in 2016, and the outlawed Kurdish PKK militant group.
The Christian pastor from North Carolina has lived in Turkey for more than two decades and has been jailed pending trial since 2016.
“I am helping Syrian refugees, they say that I am aiding the PKK. I am setting up a church, they say I got help from Gulen’s network,” Brunson said, referring to the testimonies of anonymous witnesses in court.
One of the secret witnesses accused Brunson of trying to establish a Christian Kurdish state, and providing coordinates to U.S. forces in the delivery of weapons to the Kurdish YPG militia, active in northern Syria.
“My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus but these claims are shameful and disgusting,” Brunson told the court in the Aegean town of Aliaga, north of Izmir.
Brunson has been the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, serving a small Protestant congregation in Turkey’s third largest city.