Trump threatens Turkey sanctions over pastor

Posted July 27, 2018

Donald Trump has threatened North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey with "large sanctions" over its detention of a U.S. pastor held on suspicion of terror offences and spying.

US President Donald Trump had earlier written on Twitter that his country "will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson".

Brunson was indicted on charges of helping a network led by USA -based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Trump also has praised his counterpart, saying Erdogan's leadership is "getting very high marks".

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence had issued a similar statement shortly before Trump's tweet. "Release pastor Andrew Brunson now, or be prepared to face the consequences", Pence continued. And they say he's a spy, but he's not a spy, ' Trump said then.

"He is suffering greatly".

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council and a diehard Trump fan, showed support for the White House's actions on Twitter.

Speaking at the State Department's Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom - a new event under the Trump administration - Pence was joined by Brunson's daughter, Jacqueline Furnari. Brunson's case has become a cause for conservative Christians who form an important part of Trump's political base.

Breitbart News has reported extensively on Brunson, including his history as a Christian missionary in Turkey and how he became entangled in legal proceedings against him.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has described Washington's sanctions against Iran as inappropriate, saying Ankara has told United States officials that it will not abide by the bans. Trump did not specify when further sanctions on Turkey would be imposed or announced.

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Last week a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would require the United States to reject worldwide loans to Turkey until Brunson and other Americans are freed or the harassment against them ends.

"Brunson is an innocent man, there is no credible evidence against him", Pence said.

The pastor's transition to house arrest led many government officials, including President Donald Trump, to speak on the matter. One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Mr. Trump in the Russian Federation investigation. Erdoğan has demanded Gülen in exchange for Brunson, a trade the USA has wisely refused. The top United States diplomatic in Turkey, Philip Kosnett, released a statement saying he also visited the pastor and his wife, Norine.

USA officials had been under the impression that the deal was in place, the source said, adding that when Brunson was not released, Pence spoke with Trump and the two agreed harsh new policy measures were needed to force the issue. He also condemned Islamic State group violence toward religious minorities and what he described as rising anti-Semitism in western Europe. Pompeo said the US would provide $17 million for de-mining efforts in Nineveh, an area of Iraq historically home to numerous country's religious minorities.

Mehmet Haka Atilla was convicted after well-connected Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, arrested in the USA 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.

He is on trial over allegations of espionage on behalf of Kurdish insurgents and the Fethullah Gülen network, a movement that is widely believed to have orchestrated a coup attempt in 2016.

This declaration came a day after a Turkish court allowed Brunson to leave prison for house arrest to help him recover his health. The crackdown has targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures. He lived with his wife and three children while working as the pastor of the small Izmir Resurrection Church, which had a congregation of about two dozen Protestants.

"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". "I forgive those who lie and bear false witness against me".

Mr Brunson will remain in detention pending the outcome of his trial, which has been adjourned until 12 October.

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