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US pastor on trial for alleged terror ties

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Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, US who has been in jail in Turkey since December 2016, is seen in this undated photo taken in Izmir/ REUTERS

LONDON: Andrew Brunson, a US pastor held for more than a year in Turkey, goes on trial on Monday on charges of aiding terror groups in a case that has raised tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Washington has stepped up efforts recently to secure the release of Brunson, who faces 35 years in prison and is also accused of trying to convert Turks to Christianity. His case has become a cause celebre for Christian activists, the Wall Street Journal reported.

US lawmakers have been considering measures to bar Turkish officials linked to Brunson’s detention from entering the US. However, Donald Trump, US president, has raised the issue directly with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president.

Also, Rex Tillerson, former secretary of state, told Erdogan in February that US prosecutors had dropped charges against most members of his security detail who had been accused on playing a role in beating protesters last year, the Wall Street Journal said.

Brunson, 60, spent more than two decades running a small church in Turkey before he was detained in October 2016 and accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric based in the US.