Turkish court rejects appeal to end US pastor's house arrest

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, Wednesday, July 25, 2018 An American pastor who had been jailed in Turkey for more than one and a half years on terror and espionage charges was released Wednesday and will be put under house arrest as his trial continues. Andrew Craig Brunson, 50, an evangelical pastor originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was let out of jail to serve home detention because of "health problems," Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)
Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, Wednesday, July 25, 2018 An American pastor who had been jailed in Turkey for more than one and a half years on terror and espionage charges was released Wednesday and will be put under house arrest as his trial continues. Andrew Craig Brunson, 50, an evangelical pastor originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was let out of jail to serve home detention because of "health problems," Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said. (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court rejected an appeal Tuesday to end the house arrest of an American pastor who is at the center of an escalating diplomatic row between NATO allies Turkey and the United States, Turkey's state-run news agency reported.

The court in Izmir also refused to lift a travel ban that prevents Andrew Craig Brunson, 50, from leaving Turkey, ruling there was no change in the "strong criminal suspicion" against the pastor, the Anadolu Agency reported.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was arrested in December 2016 on espionage and terror-related charges. He had been jailed until he was released to home detention on July 25.

The evangelical Christian pastor denies any wrongdoing. He faces a prison sentence of up to 35 years, if he is convicted on both counts at the end of his ongoing trial.

U.S. President Donald Trump demanded Brunson's release and announced possible sanctions last week against Turkey, a crucial NATO ally, for its treatment of him. The Turkish government refused to back down and called on the United States to respect Turkey's judicial process.

"It is unacceptable for the United States to use threatening language against Turkey over a continuing judicial case," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said after a Cabinet meeting.

"Turkey will never give up on its principled stance," Kalin added.

He reiterated that Turkey would seek international arbitration if the United States refused to deliver F-35 fighter jets in retaliation.

Brunson's lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, who filed the requests the court rejected, could not immediately be contacted for comment.

Brunson, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, led the Izmir Resurrection Church in Turkey.

He was detained in the aftermath of a failed 2016 coup for allegedly supporting outlawed Kurdish rebels and the network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames Gulen for the unrest, but the cleric denies involvement in the coup attempt.

The next hearing in Brunson's trial is scheduled for Oct. 12.

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