Brunson looted Iraq’s gold, says AKP deputy

Mehmet Erdoğan, a deputy for the Turkish ruling party, has claimed in a Twitter post that Andrew Brunson, the detained U.S. pastor at the heart of the recent U.S.-Turkish diplomatic feud, is in fact a former U.S. marine in charge of looting Iraqi gold during the 2003 U.S. invasion.

“These images show the looting. How important this pastor must be to the United States – if he talks…” Erdoğan said in his tweet, accompanied by images purportedly showing U.S. soldiers in Iraq with piles of gold bars.

One of the marines, pictured holding a gold bar and with a badge bearing the name “Brown,” is the one identified by Erdoğan as Brunson.

The images are accompanied by text in Arabic which speculates that, if Turkey obtains a confession from the U.S. pastor for his activities in Iraq, the United States could be forced to return the gold.

It should not be difficult for Turkey to verify the claims that the pastor acted as the commander of U.S. looting operations in the occupation of Iraq, which began in April, 2003.

Brunson has, according to most reports, been a full-time resident of Turkey for 23 years, raised his family there, and was well-known locally as an evangelical preacher in the western Turkish city of İzmir during that time.

The U.S. pastor has been held in Turkey since Oct. 2016 for alleged links to the Gülen religious movement, which is accused of plotting the 2016 coup attempt, and to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed armed group seeking Kurdish self-rule in Turkey.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the charges “phony” and demanded Brunson’s release. Since then, sanctions and tariff hikes imposed by Trump’s administration have worsened economic problems in Turkey, leading President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to accuse his NATO allies of conducting “economic warfare” on the country.
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