Trump Demands Immediate Release Of US Pastor

Andrew Brunson

In this July 25, 2018 photo, Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey.

President Donald Trump said that the United States will impose sanctions on Turkey over its protracted detainment of an American pastor.

Relations between Turkey and the United States have already been strained after a Turkish banker who helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions was convicted in the USA in January.

The salvo came after a telephone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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

ACLJ said Trump "has played a critical role in securing the freedom of Pastor Andrew".

On Wednesday, a court in Turkey ruled that Brunson, who has been detained for 21 months, should be transferred to house arrest. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!" the president added from aboard Air Force One as he flew to Iowa for an event.

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 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, Pence described Brunson's incarceration as an act of "religious persecution".

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.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu talks at a press conference during a visit in the Turkish Cypriot northern part of the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 24,2018.

And an Erdogan spokesman warned the U.S.to "reconsider its approach and adopt a constructive position before inflicting further damage to its own interests and its alliance with Turkey". Pence said Erdogan should allow Brunson to return to the United States "now or be prepared to face the consequences".

Andrew Brunson, the pastor of the Dirilis (Resurrection) church in Izmir, was arrested in 2016 on charges of espionage, and for his links and organisational activities to the outlawed PKK terror organisation and FETO (Fetullah Terror Organisation).

Earlier Thursday, Pence said "there is no credible evidence" against Brunson.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson's release and said on Twitter last week that the pastor's detention was "a total disgrace".

Mr Brunson is one of 20 Americans who were charged after the coup, according to the New York Times.

The United States and Turkey are both members of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Senate has also considered bipartisan legislation to restrict loans to Turkey until it releases over a dozen USA citizens it now has in captivity, including Brunson.

Interested in Turkey? Add Turkey as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Turkey news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

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".

Pompeo announced additional aid for a region of Iraq previously held by the Islamic State group. He was arrested in December 2016 and had been in custody since then.

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. Gulen denies the charges. The crackdown has targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures. He has lived in Turkey for more than two decades.

Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill that would require Washington to reject global loans to Turkey until Brunson and other Americans are freed or the harassment against them ends. He told Al-Monitor, "I highly doubt that Washington would agree to swap Pastor Brunson with any convicted felon in the United States, especially with an individual guilty of conspiracy to evade Iran sanctions". 'I forgive those who lie and bear false witness against me'.

He added: "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".

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