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U.S. Pastor Defends Himself Against Coup Charges in Turkey

  • Trial has angered U.S. congress as U.S.-Turkey relations sour
  • Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson faces 35 years in Turkish prison
Soldiers stand guard at the entrance of the Aliaga court and prison complex, during the trial of U.S. pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, in Aliaga, Turkey, on April 16, 2018.

Soldiers stand guard at the entrance of the Aliaga court and prison complex, during the trial of U.S. pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, in Aliaga, Turkey, on April 16, 2018.

Photographer: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images

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American pastor Andrew Craig Brunson took to the stand in a converted basketball court in the Turkish city of Izmir on Monday to defend himself against claims he had a role in a 2016 coup attempt and was working with Kurds to establish a breakaway Christian state.

A series of secret witnesses, addressing the court via a blurred video conference to protect their identities, made charges against the pastor that ranged from cooperation with Kurdish terrorists to colluding with the Fethullah Gulen Islamic movement that Turkey blames for the attempted putsch. Brunson, who denies all allegations and could face up to 35 years in prison, patiently answered the charges in fluent Turkish, rarely using a translator. At one point he broke into tears as he made eye contact with his wife.