USA threatens to sanction Turkey over detained American preacher

USA threatens to sanction Turkey over detained American preacher

Lawmakers have also called on Turkey to release Brunson, and the final version of Congress's fiscal 2019 defense bill included a provision demanding Turkey "to release wrongfully detained USA citizens including Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge", a scientist imprisoned in Turkey.

Trump said Brunson "is suffering greatly".

In a tweet, Trump called Brunson "a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being" and demanded his immediate release. "Even as we stand strong against the threats and malign actions of your leaders in Tehran, know what we are with you".

Pence's initial announcement of possible sanctions came at the close of a three-day conference on religious freedom.

Addressing Brunson's daughter in the audience, Pence said: "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".

Brunson's detention deepened a rift between Washington and Ankara, which are also at odds over the Syrian war and Turkey's plan to buy missile defenses from Russian Federation.

If convicted, Brunson faces up to 15 years in prison for "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member, " references to outlawed Kurdish militants and the network of a US-based Muslim cleric blamed for a failed coup attempt.


Brunson was held for more than a year without charges before being accused of "dividing and separating Turkey by simply spreading his Christian faith", Pence said.

"We never wanted this bill to be necessary, but we warned the Turkish government that there would be consequences if it did not cease its unjust detention and harassment of USA citizens and locally employed embassy staff", Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Brunson's move out of prison in a tweet Wednesday, calling it "long overdue news", but called for the Turkish government to "resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner". The Vice President also berated the governments of North Korea, China, Russia, Nicaragua, and Iran, over treatment of religious communities in their respective countries. He also condemned Islamic State group violence toward religious minorities and what he described as rising anti-Semitism in western Europe. Pompeo said the department would provide $17 million for de-mining efforts in Nineveh, an area of Iraq historically home to many of Iraq's religious minorities.

Ties between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the United States have been strained by the pastor Brunson case.

Gulen, who denies orchestrating the coup attempt, lives in Pennsylvania.

The High Criminal Court no:2 in Izmir made a decision to turn Brunson's detention into house arrest due to his "health problems". "Release pastor Andrew Brunson now, or be prepared to face the consequences", Pence continued. The Turkish government finally indicted him. The crackdown has targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures.

His next hearing is due to be on October 12.

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