Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over detained USA pastor

Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over detained USA pastor

On Wednesday night, Trump tweeted: "A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison".

'He is suffering greatly.

In a tweet, Trump called Brunson "a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being" and demanded his immediate release.

An American pastor whose imprisonment for more than 600 days has tested relations between the USA and Turkey has been released from jail and placed under house arrest, in an apparent concession to repeated demands by American policymakers who called the man's detention a disgrace and threatened sanctions against Ankara.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in Washington, D.C., hours earlier at a conference on religious freedom, made a similar threat of "significant sanctions" against Ankara over the imprisoned pastor.

Andrew Brunson, an Evangelical pastor from North Carolina who has done missionary work in Turkey for 23 years, has been the subject of calls from President Donald Trump and other USA government officials for his release.

The pastor denies the charges and his defense team argues the case is built on questionable witness statements that should never have been brought to court. The Turkish government has not dropped the charges, and he still faces the possibility of spending up to 35 years in prison.

"I promise you, as I told your father yesterday, President Trump and I will continue to fight to secure your father's full release until he is restored to his family and returns to the United States of America".

He was among 20 US citizens arrested and charged after the failed coup. "Release pastor Andrew Brunson now, or be prepared to face the consequences", Pence continued.

There are also lingering issues over a Turkish state-run bank that was allegedly involved in busting sanctions on Iran, which hangs in the background as Trump looks to impose a fresh sanctions regime on Iran.

He is a 50-year-old American pastor who has been doing missionary work in Turkey for 23 years.

"The United States must reconsider its approach and adopt a constructive position before inflicting further damage to its own interests and its alliance with Turkey".

He was an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until their 2013 public falling-out led the government to declare Gulen's network a terror group.

The case has strained ties between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the United States.

The Trump administration escalated its pressure campaign the day after a Turkish court allowed Andrew Brunson to be transferred to house arrest after 21 months in detention. Gulen denies the charges.

His lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, said on July 18 the prosecution has added the testimonies of two new anonymous witnesses to the case and that the court will hold its next hearing on October 12 to hear them and view new evidence.

US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said he believes there is an "excellent prospect" that Mr Brunson will come home.

Brunson is accused of ties to the movement of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who lives in exile in the USA and whom Ankara blames for the coup attempt.

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