US to impose sanctions on Turkey over detained pastor

US to impose sanctions on Turkey over detained pastor

President Donald Trump threatened North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey with "large" economic sanctions Thursday unless detained American Pastor Andrew Brunson is freed.

Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday that if Turkey does not take immediate action to free Andrew Craig Brunson, "the United States of America will impose significant sanctions on Turkey".

The announcement that Brunson would be moved from prison to house arrest comes as the State Department hosts a Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom.

Brunson, an evangelical pastor and North Carolina native, will be released from jail in western Turkey and returned to his house because of "health problems", according to the Associated Press.

It said Brunson's defence had been completed and evidence for the case was nearly all collected. One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Mr. Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.

Brunson denies the charges.

The pastor faces 35 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.

While the Kurds have proven themselves to be invaluable allies to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the US considers the PKK, a Kurdish independence movement inside Turkey, as a terrorist organization for its violent tactics. Shortly after the possibility of sanctions was first announced by Vice President Mike Pence Thursday, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that the U.S.




Brunson is one of tens of thousands of people detained on similar charges during the state of emergency declared by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the 2016 failed coup bid.

President Trump, in a tweet last week, called Turkey's prosecution of Brunson "a total disgrace". Sam Brownback, ambassador-at-large for global religious freedom, referenced Brunson during his opening remarks on Tuesday.

"We welcome long overdue news that Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest in #Turkey, but it is not enough", Pompeo tweeted.

Turkey has also been publicly critical of criminal prosecutions in the USA of state-run Halkbank official Mehmet Hakan Atilla and Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader.

Brunson was arrested in the Aegean province of Izmir in December 2016; he was charged with committing crimes, including spying for the PKK terror group and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the defeated coup attempt of July 2016. The pastor has denied being involved in anti-government activities, as Turkish authorities alleged.

The same court on July 18 ordered that Brunson remain imprisoned until an October 12 hearing.

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

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