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US pastor held in Turkey to take case to EU court, says lawyer

Pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces terror-related charges, is under house arrest in Aegean province of Izmir, Turkey
Pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces terror-related charges, is under house arrest in Aegean province of Izmir, Turkey

Pastor Andrew Brunson will take his terrorism case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if Turkey doesn’t release him, Al Jazeera reported today.

The American is being held on terrorism charges with no end in sight, amid a diplomatic spat between the United States and Turkey over his release.

A Turkish court rejected an appeal to release Brunson on 15 August, upholding a judgement given by a lower court earlier in the week. But Brunson’s lawyer Ismail Cern Halavurt vowed to take the case to Turkey’s highest constitutional court within weeks to find a domestic remedy.

“We will receive a formal notification on the latest verdict by the criminal court in Izmir soon. Then we have a month to appeal it at the Constitutional Court,” Halavurt said, adding that Brunson’s “right to liberty and security” as well as “right to travel” have been breached.

“Unless the Constitutional Court frees him, we will have to take the case to the ECHR as the domestic legal remedies we can seek will be exhausted,” he added.

Turkey is a signatory to the ECHR that provides binding verdicts on human rights law cases.

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Brunson lived in Turkey for over two decades with his family, and was arrested in 2016 in a government-led crackdown following the failed coup in 2016. He faces a prison term of 35 years for allegedly spying and inspiring violence under terrorism legislation.

The pastor’s lawyer insists that the case has been politicised over eroding diplomatic ties between Ankara and Washington. “It is very hard for the Turkish judiciary to act impartial in such a politicised case. Therefore, we are prepared to take it to the relevant international judicial authority, the ECHR,” Halavurt said.

According to Al Jazeera, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested an exchange of Fethullah Gulen for Brunson as part of a prisoner swap deal.

The United States imposed sanctions on two Turkish government ministers, and early this month Washington raised tariffs on Turkish metal exports causing the lira to drop. In mid-August, the US threatened a “second wave” of sanctions on Turkey as a result of Brunson’s continued detention.

Turkey has been vying to stabilise its currency, reassuring global investors that the sanctions would only make the country stronger.

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