US priest Brunson faces life for FETÖ terrorist group membership

The pastor and his wife – who has been released earlier – were members of FETÖ which funded their church, the witness said.

Even before he was questioned by prosecutors about his links to FETÖ, Brunson was accused of espionage and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order (a coup charge). Brunson had denied those initial allegations.

Turkish media reports claim Brunson is also linked to the PKK, another terrorist group whose members were allegedly given shelter at the Diriliş church.

FETÖ, which posed as a charity with religious undertones for decades before using its immense clout to seize power through infiltrators in the military, is known for its close ties with churches.

Under its “interfaith project”, Gülenists reached out to Protestant and Catholic churches though it is the first time that a pastor is being implicated in a FETÖ case.

The terrorist group’s ties to the United States and its intelligence service are no secret, according to prosecutors in other cases against FETÖ.

While media reports claim that Brunson is “a U.S. agent” is not confirmed, a separate indictment by prosecutors in Ankara says FETÖ used its sprawling international network of schools to provide a cover for CIA operatives.

FETÖ’s coup attempt in 2016 was quelled thanks to a strong public resistance. Thousands of people, from military officers who opened fire on unarmed crowds rallying against the coup to “civilian” point men of the terrorist group, were arrested or detained under a state of emergency.

Trials of hundreds involved in the putsch attempt are still underway. In 104 trials since 2016, 797 defendants involved in the insurrection bid were handed down life sentences.

Some 586 defendants, including generals, were sentenced to life. A main trial of those accused of orchestrating the coup plot and a trial of putschists who took over the main headquarters of the army, are still underway.

Bekir Baz, one of the group’s point man who had ties to Brunson, is believed to be in the United States after he fled Turkey in 2015 one year before the coup attempt. He managed to run away at a time of heightened crackdowns against the terrorist group.

Baz was allegedly a coordinator of the group’s activities in İzmir where Gülen made himself a name as a charismatic preacher in 1970s. He reportedly blackmailed and threatened local officials to work for the group’s interests, according to criminal investigations.

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