Turkey eyeing Mormons as next target after U.S. pastor Brunson - Bloomberg

Even if detained U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, at the center of a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington, is freed, the threat to Turkey’s Mormons, who prosecutors say Brunson conspired with, will remain, Bloomberg wrote. 

 Turkish prosecutors allege that Kenneth Abney, a retired U.S. special forces major and Mormon missionary, conspired with Brunson, the evangelical pastor currently on trial in Turkey for his alleged involvement in a terrorist plot in the country’s July 2016 coup attempt, “to coordinate a group of malefactors that included not only evangelicals and Mormons—that is, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS)—but also the Muslim Fethullah Gulen faith group (designated as terrorists by Ankara after Turkey’s failed 2016 military coup), the Kurdish-Marxist PKK terrorist organization, an Israeli, an Iranian, and current and former agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency,’’ Bloomberg said.

 While Abney, now 71 and on a Mormon mission in the U.S., has not been indicted, he remains under investigation. He maintains that he never met Brunson or even knew of his existence until his 2016 arrest.

 “There are so many accusations. I think they will start an operation against the other religious groups,” Bloomberg quoted Cem Halavurt, Brunson’s defense attorney, as saying.

 The pastor is merely a symptom of the rot that has afflicted the Ankara-Washington relationship for years, Bloomberg stressed, with the sides at odds over whether to arm or destroy Kurdish fighters in Syria and the Turkish president deflecting responsibility for a collapsing economy onto what he calls a a U.S.-led “economic war.”

 The main witness in the Brunson case claims that “an umbrella organization for Christian churches that’s led by Mormons but involves the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency controls the deployment of all U.S. Christian missionaries; that they identify each other in the field with a secret handshake, a curl of the middle fingers into the palm; that LDS members sent to infiltrate Turkish military high schools as language teachers all had a finger missing; that Mormons make up 40 percent of the U.S. military stationed overseas; and that evangelicals and Mormons are driven to Turkey by a common desire to bring about the end-of-days prophecies in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, by reuniting the Kurds—the lost 13th tribe of Israel,’’ Bloomberg wrote.