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July 18, 2018 10:54 am

Turkish Court Rules to Keep US Pastor in Jail as Trial Continues

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

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Ismail Cem Halavurt, lawyer of the jailed pastor Andrew Brunson, arrives at Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in Izmir, Turkey, July 18, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Kemal Aslan.

A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday to keep an American pastor in jail during his trial on terrorism and spying charges, a case that has deepened a rift between the two NATO allies.

Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of helping the group that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as supporting outlawed PKK Kurdish militants.

Brunson went on trial earlier this year and faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty. He has denied the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting.”

The US charge d’affaires in Turkey said he was “disappointed” by the ruling by the court in the Aegean province of Izmir.

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The ruling came despite hopes that Brunson, who was detained nearly two years ago, could have been freed as the prosecution witnesses finish testifying.

But the prosecution has added further evidence to the case, and court will hold its next hearing on October 12 to hear fresh witnesses.

The ruling has sent the Turkish lira weaker as investors worried over escalating tensions with the United States.

The NATO allies are also at odds over US policy in Syria, where Washington’s ally in the fight against Islamic State is a Kurdish militia that Turkey says is an extension of the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey.

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