American pastor goes on trial in Turkey
International | Plus Syria in the spotlight after weekend airstrikes targeting chemical weapons facilities
by Mindy Belz
Posted 4/16/18, 11:22 am
TURKEY: “I’ve never done something against Turkey. I love Turkey. I’ve been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want truth to come out,” American Andrew Brunson told a court in the western Turkish town of Aliaga, north of Izmir, where for more than 20 years he lived with his wife and pastored Resurrection Church. Jailed for 18 months, Brunson went on trial Monday on charges of conspiring in the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Brunson, not a prisoner so much as a hostage used to extort concessions from the United States, faces espionage charges that carry a life sentence based on accusations of “secret witnesses.”
Brunson’s denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), issued a call to prayer and fasting ahead of the proceedings. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from Brunson’s home state of North Carolina, joined Brunson’s wife, Norine, in the courtroom.
SYRIA: The United States is expected to announce Monday new sanctions on Russia to halt resupply to Syria’s chemical weapons apparatus following missile strikes on key facilities by the United States, Britain, and France early Saturday morning. The coordinated operation launched 105 missiles on three sites (before and after photos here) in response to the April 7 chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma.
In a Friday night address to the nation, U.S. President Donald Trump said he intended the attacks “to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons,” and called the mission “a vital national security interest of the United States.” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, “We were not looking for war,” but added, “This was not muscle-flexing. We set their chemical weapons program back years.”
In Damascus, supporters of President Bashar al-Assad considered the attack a win because the limited airstrikes suggested Assad’s rule would not be challenged. The attacks came as Assad’s forces took control—for the first time in six years—of the Eastern Ghouta region where the chemical attack took place. Initial reports from church leaders in Homs and Damascus called the missile attacks “terrifying” but reported no lives lost among their congregations.
The U.S.-led strikes came just as the international monitoring team set to investigate the Douma attack arrived in Damascus for on-site inspections. No surprise, so far Russia and Syria have blocked the team from accessing the site.
Here’s how The New York Times covered Syria when President Barack Obama was in office, and chemical weapons were, it said, “out of the hands of a brutal dictator—and all without firing a shot.”
PERU: South American leaders barred Venezuela from attending the Summit of the Americas, while calling on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to accept humanitarian aid for the country’s crippling economic crisis. They also urged those gathered not to accept the results of Venezuela’s upcoming presidential election. “We won’t recognize the results of an election designed to disguise a dictatorship,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
BRAZIL: The Summit of the Americas gathering also pledged to make fighting corruption a top priority, but one of the most notorious instigators, imprisoned former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, could go free if several Supreme Court justices have their way.
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