A Turkish prosecutor has demanded life in prison for jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson, according to Doğan News Agency.
Brunson, who pastored a Presbyterian fellowship in the coastal town of Izmir, has been held since October 2016.
He’s been charged with espionage, acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order and overthrowing the Turkish parliament, in addition to alleged “membership in an armed terroristic organization.”
The prosecutor in İzmir accuses Brunson with being a “member and executive of the terrorist group” suspected of being behind the July 2016 coup attempt.
Despite personal requests from President Trump and Vice President Pence, the Turkish government has refused to release him.
Some believe the pastor is being held hostage by the Turkish government, which wants the U.S. to extradite a Muslim cleric living in America.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year seemed to indicate that Brunson will only be freed when Washington sends the cleric, who is Erdogan’s rival, back to Turkey.
Referring to Brunson and Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan said, “You have a cleric there. You give him to us and we’ll give you this one.”
Turkey has been seeking to extradite Gulen, who was once Erodgan’s ally, and whose supporters have been blamed for trying to overthrow Erdogan’s government.
Gulen has denied any role in the coup attempt.
Brunson has said his reason for living in Turkey for over two decades was “…for one purpose only. To tell about Jesus Christ.”