Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions if it does not release U.S. pastor

Jul 27, 2018, 10:33
Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions if it does not release U.S. pastor

"To President Erdogan and his government, I have a message from the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences".

"He is suffering greatly".

Earlier, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in a tweet threatened to impose "significant sanctions on Turkey until this innocent man of faith is free".

US President Donald Trump demanded Thursday that Turkey free a detained American pastor, warning Washington was ready to impose "large sanctions" against its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

Pence warned if Turkey did not take "immediate action" to free Brunson, the US would move to impose "significant" sanctions.

Donald Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, both threatened Turkey with sanctions on Thursday if Ankara does not release USA pastor Andrew Brunson, who is under house arrest.

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The administration's move comes one day after a Turkish court allowed Brunson, 50, to be transferred out of jail and into house arrest because of "health problems", according to Anadolu news agency.

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Brunson lived 23 years in Turkey, pastoring the Protestant Izmir Resurrection Church.

Turkish prosecutors are demanding up to 35 years of imprisonment: 15 years for committing crimes on behalf of terrorist organisations as a non-member, and up to 20 years for political or military espionage.

Turkey, serving as the West's traditional window to Asia, the Middle East and multiple post-Soviet states, is a geographically strategic ally that's home to two U.S. Air Force bases.

"With regard to the Brunson case, necessary information has been provided to our USA counterparts on various occasions and it has been clearly expressed that this issue is totally within the competence of the independent Turkish judiciary", Aksoy told the agency.

Mehmet Haka Atilla was convicted after well-connected Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, arrested in the U.S. in 2016, became a government witness and admitted involvement in a multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert United States economic sanctions against Iran.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told American lawmakers that the release of Brunson from prison is an "indicator of diplomatic progress" but the "work is not done".

"I believe in and support Turkey's territorial integrity", he told the court.

Trump's promise of unspecified punishing action marks the latest deterioration in relations between Turkey and the U.S.as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers expand two years after a failed coup against his government.

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It is thought standing up for a pastor will be appreciated by his Christian supporters.

Brunson's case has been adjourned until October 12. Gulen denies the charges.

The president blamed Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for organizing the coup and has demanded that the United States extradite Gulen, who now lives in the United States.

Erdogan suggested a year ago that Brunson's case could be connected to an extradition request for Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, Brunson was escorted out of prison in the coastal city of Izmir, and left in a convoy of cars.

During a recent hearing, Brunson he rejected charges against him.

"We're working diligently on that case and, frankly, every place an American is held", Pompeo noted, adding that the Brunson case illustrates why advancing religious liberty around the world is so important.

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