A Turkish court has denied the appeal for release of an American pastor who was imprisoned for allegedly being a member of an armed terrorist organization.
Pastor Andrew Brunson was initially detained with his wife, Norine, on Oct. 7 in the coastal city of Izmir. The couple, who have been living in Turkey for over 20 years, were accused of conducting activities that were said to constitute a "national security risk" and were scheduled for deportation.
Norine was released on Oct. 19, but the pastor remained in custody. On Dec. 8, Brunson was transferred to a counter-terrorism center and was brought before an Izmir court for interrogation the next day. He was informed that he is facing "terrorism" charges based on a statement from a "secret informant."
The judged mentioned that he is linked with the Fethullah Gulen movement, which is accused by the government of instigating the failed coup in July.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is defending Brunson, said that the charges were unfounded. The organization said that another appeal to a higher court is possible, but it is uncertain how the process will go.
The ACLJ stated that Brunson was previously denied access to his attorney.
"Now, he is allowed visits with his Turkish attorneyâ€”however, due to an emergency decree in Turkey, those visits are recorded and any notes taken by his attorney are copied. Thus, Pastor Andrew has no attorney-client privilege." the organization said in a statement.
The ACLJ reported that the family was recently allowed to visit Brunson, and the authorities let him keep a copy of the New Testament.
"Although Pastor Andrew has finally been allowed a family visit and some access to his attorney, he is still wrongfully imprisoned and the charge he faces is serious. Pastor Andrew must be released," the ACLJ stated.
"We are continuing our diplomatic efforts to engage the incoming U.S. administration, and moving forward with an appeal of his case," it added.
The ACLJ recently launched a campaign calling for the release of Brunson. To date, the petition has garnered over 142,000 signatures.