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Turkish Court Rules US Pastor Had Links With Gulen Terrorist Movement - Reports

© REUTERS / Umit Bektas / U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norrine arrive at the airport in Izmir
U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norrine arrive at the airport in Izmir - Sputnik International
ANKARA (Sputnik) – A Turkish court ruled that US pastor Andrew Brunson’s statements of not having links to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen's movement, referred to by Ankara as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), are groundless, the Anadolu news agency reported Thursday citing the ruling.

"The defendant claimed that he didn't contact with representatives of Gulen's movement and other criminal organizations as it contradicts his religious views… But in reality, as confirmed by witnesses, Brunson was in contact not only with FETO’s ‘Imam’ in the Aegean region Bekir Baz, but also with his assistant Murat Safa, who had a direct access to the leader of the terrorist movement," the ruling reads as quoted by the local media.

READ MORE: Turkey Expects US to Lift Sanctions Soon After Pastor Brunson's Release

According to the court, Brunson also provided support to FETO, while Gulen’s supporters, including Baz, helped the pastor solve his problems.

The court said that Brunson, heading only a small religious community, visited some areas of Turkey with a high terrorist threat, and established direct contacts with local leaders, which indicated that the pastor had influential accomplices. The ruling goes on to say that Brunson could get support like this only from FETO representatives.

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey. - Sputnik International
Erdogan Replies to Trump's 'Thank You' for Aiding in US Pastor Brunson's Release
The relations between Ankara and Washington have soured in the recent years over the case of Brunson, among other issues. The United States responded to his detention by the imposition of sanctions against Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, accusing them of human rights violations.

Brunson was detained three years ago over his alleged ties to Gulen, accused by Turkey of plotting the 2016 failed military coup. The pastor was released from prison in July 2018, only to be moved to house arrest. He was allowed to walk free in October after a court in Izmir ruled he did not have to serve any more jail time. He soon returned to the United States.

READ MORE: Gulen Supporters Deny Media Reports About His Death — Foundation Spokesperson

Another wave of tensions between the two countries occurred following the decision of US President Donald Trump to authorize the doubling of previously imposed import tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively. The US move resulted in the Turkish lira hitting a historic low. Turkey in response to the US decision increased tariffs on 22 types of US goods worth $533 million. In particular, the country introduced higher levies on US cars, alcohol, fruit, cosmetics and tobacco.

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