U.S. to hit NATO-ally Turkey over detained pastor, Trump says

U.S. to hit NATO-ally Turkey over detained pastor, Trump says

U.S. to hit NATO-ally Turkey over detained pastor, Trump says

President Trump vowed Thursday to slap Turkey with sanctions for detaining a United States pastor on terror and espionage charges - demanding strongman Recep Erdoğan release him immediately.

Turkey on Thursday slammed remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump after he threatened the country with sanctions unless Ankara releases a detained American pastor.

President Donald Trump said in a tweet last week that Brunson was being held hostage and that Erdoğan should "do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father". "The Government of Turkey should now release Pastor Brunson and immediately return him to the United States, an action that would begin to restore the longstanding friendship between our two nations".

Pence warned if Turkey did not take "immediate action" to free Brunson, the USA would move to impose "significant" sanctions.

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

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened Thursday to impose "large sanctions" on its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey if that country does not release an American pastor now under house arrest.

"This is one example of why religious freedom matters, and so we're going to have over 80 delegations here at the State Department in a handful of days, 40 of my counterparts, foreign ministers", Pompeo said in the interview.

Against expectations, a court in Izmir on July 19 denied a request to release Brunson, sparking Trump to term the pastor a "hostage". He also condemned Islamic State group violence toward religious minorities and what he described as rising anti-Semitism in western Europe.

Brunson's detention deepened a rift between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Washington and Ankara - also at odds over the Syrian war and Turkey's plan to buy missile defences from Russian Federation - and financial markets took his transfer order as a positive sign.

Prominent US lawyer Jay Sekulow, who has worked with the Brunson defence, welcomed the move on Twitter as a "critical first step that we believe will result in the freedom" of Brunson.

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

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Brunson's move out of prison in a tweet Wednesday, calling it "long overdue news", but demanded that the Turkish government "resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner".

More than 50,000 people were arrested in Turkey in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's huge post-coup crackdown. 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".

On July 18, the court rejected his defense lawyers' pleas to let him go and remanded Brunson in custody pending a fourth hearing on October 12. He is the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation. 'I forgive those who lie and bear false witness against me'.

Turkey's case against Brunson has further strained its relationships with the US.

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