The attorney representing an evangelical Christian pastor from North Carolina who is jailed in Turkey said he plans to petition the country’s highest court for his client’s release.
Turkey’s private DHA news agency quoted Ismail Cem Halavurt as saying he would file an appeal on behalf of Andrew Craig Brunson to the country’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday.
He confirmed his intentions to Reuters on Tuesday, saying he did not expect the court to make a ruling before an already scheduled Oct. 12 hearing.
The 50-year-old evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, N.C., who has lived in Turkey for two decades, was arrested nearly two years ago for allegedly “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups,” a reference to outlawed Kurdish militants and the network of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for a failed coup attempt.
In July, he was transferred from a jail in western Turkey to house arrest due to health reasons. He is banned from leaving his residence and the country.
Brunson, who has vehemently denied the charges, faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty.
The case has strained ties between NATO allies Turkey and the US. President Trump has demanded Brunson’s release.
Trump tweeted in Brunson's defense in mid-July, calling it "a total disgrace" that Brunson is being held. "He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!"
Amid the conflict, Trump in August doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports, which helped trigger a Turkish currency crisis.
On Monday, President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was determined to fight, within legal and diplomatic frameworks, “this crooked understanding, which imposes sanctions using the excuse of a pastor who is tried due to his dark links with terror organizations.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.