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Senators warn of ‘measures’ against Turkey over Andrew Brunson case

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ISTANBUL — A bipartisan group of 66 senators is threatening Turkey with “measures” after an American pastor was put on trial accused of terrorism links and espionage.

North Carolina native Andrew Brunson, 50, has been jailed since October 2016. If found guilty, he faces up to 35 years in prison.

 Andrew Brunson. American Center for Law & Justice

Brunson ran a Protestant church in southwestern Turkey and has lived in the country for more than two decades.

When his trial began Monday, Brunson denied the charges. “I’ve never done something against Turkey,” he said. “I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years.”

In a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seen by NBC News, the senators describe the indictment detailing the allegations against the evangelical pastor as “an absurd collection of anonymous accusations, flights of fantasy, and random character assassination.”

It suggested that Brunson was being used as a “political pawn by elements of the Turkish government bent on destroying the longstanding partnership between two great nations.”

The letter added that U.S. government had been “patient in the hope that justice would be done” and Brunson would be freed. However, the 66 senators say they now have “concluded that other measures will be necessary to ensure that the government of Turkey respects the right of law-abiding citizens and employees of the United States to travel to, reside in, and work in Turkey without fear of persecution.”

The letter’s signatories include Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who attended the first day of Brunson’s trial.

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In September, Erdogan hinted that Brunson would be returned to the U.S. if Washington extradited Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara blames Gulen for Turkey’s deadly 2016 coup attempt, but he denies any involvement.

Brunson is accused of having links to supporters of Gulen.

On Thursday, Republican Sen. James Lankford and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who also signed the letter, said they would renew their push for sanctions targeting Turkish officials. They called the charges against Brunson “fabricated” and likened his imprisonment to “hostage-taking.”

President Donald Trump earlier this week tweeted his support for Brunson, alleging that the pastor was “being persecuted in Turkey for no reason.”

Speaking before the trial, Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline Furnari, told NBC News her father has been relieved by the high-level attention his case has received.

“My family is just happy this case is moving [forward],” she said. “Could this drag on for a long time? That’s also a possibility. We just don’t know what the outcome will be.”



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Brexit deal on BRINK: EU fears UK will leave with no deal ahead of last-ditch crunch talks

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EUROCRATS are working on the assumption Britain will quit the European Union without a Brexit deal, it has emerged.

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Bumble Bee responds to Trump’s claim about protesters throwing cans of tuna

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Bumble Bee Seafoods on Tuesday responded to President Donald Trump’s fishy claim that protesters used cans of tuna to chuck at law enforcement amid civil unrest prompted by the deaths of Black Americans by police.

“They go out and buy tuna fish and soup. You know that right? … Because they throw it, they throw it, it’s the perfect weight — tuna fish,” Trump said at a rally in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “They can really rip it, right? And that hits you. No, it’s true. Bumble Bee brand tuna.”

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“Eat em. Don’t throw em,” the company said on its official Twitter.

In 2018, The company said Trump’s tariffs on Chinese tuna would be “devastating” for the business.

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Trump has used his re-election rallies to spread falsehoods about the protests and boast his law and order message and his pledge to quell the unrest in cities.

He claimed at Tuesday’s rally and others that mostly Democratic cities have been overrun by “anarchists.” Though police have violently clashed with demonstrators, many of the protests have remained largely peaceful.

On Monday, the Justice Department released a list of cities that it has deemed “anarchist jurisdictions” under Trump’s instructions this month to review federal funding for local governments in places where violence or vandalism has occurred during protests.

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EU crisis: Shock member state set to leave bloc after Brexit after issue ignored by bloc

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A BREXITEER has predicted one surprising nation will push to leave the EU after Brexit due to frustration with the bloc.

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