Turkish court rejects appeal to end US pastor’s house arrest – Middle East

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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.