A Turkish court has rejected an appeal for U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from house arrest while being tried on terrorism charges.
Brunson’s detention has become a pressing issue for the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened sanctions as part of a pressure campaign to free the pastor.
Brunson is next expected in court Oct. 12 as he battles charges of terrorism and espionage. He has been jailed for the past 21 months after indictment on charges of helping a network led by U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Brunson is also charged with supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The 50-year-old pastor, who denies the charges, could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
The detention of Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has strained relations between Turkey and the U.S., both NATO allies.
Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson’s release. The U.S. president has tweeted that Brunson’s detention is “a total disgrace” and added, “He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!”
Brunson is among tens of thousands of people Erdogan detained on similar charges during the state of emergency he declared following the failed coup.
The state of emergency ended on July 18, but the Turkish legislature passed a new “anti-terror” law last week that gives authorities more power to detain suspects and restore public order.