American Pastor Detained in Turkey to Move to House Arrest

Alicia Cross
July 27, 2018

The United States has threatened Turkey with sanctions over a detained American pastor held on terror and espionage charges.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday the United States would impose significant sanctions on Turkey over its detention of American Christian pastor Andrew Brunson and called on Ankara to immediately release him, the latest squabble between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

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".

Turkey's Vice President Fuat Oktay denounces US' sanctions threat on Ankara over pastor Andrew Brunson, who is under detention on terror-related charges, saying American partners must respect the decisions of the Turkish judiciary.

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The president's threat follows an equally strong warning from Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke Thursday at the first ever global conference on religious freedom.

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

In this photo taken on July 18, 2018, a Turkish soldier stands guard at the entrance of the Aliaga court and prison complex, during the trial of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, held on charges of aiding terror groups, in Aliaga, north of Izmir. Pence said Erdogan should allow Brunson to return to the United States "now or be prepared to face the consequences".

Trump had previously called Brunson's detention "a total disgrace" and issued repeated calls for the pastor's release. He also condemned Islamic State group violence toward religious minorities and what he described as rising anti-Semitism in western Europe.

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Shortly before, Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, made a similar threat directly at Turkey's president.

Mehmet Haka Atilla was convicted after well-connected Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, arrested in the U.S. 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. Gulen denies the charges.

Erdogan has in the past linked Brunson's fate with that of the US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish government released Brunson from prison this week, but has forced him to stay under house arrest.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a new commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told Religion News Service on Wednesday that the ministerial could have been one of several factors in this latest development in Brunson's case. The crackdown has targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures.

Brunson rejected evidence against him during a recent hearing, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency. He has lived in Turkey for more than two decades.

"I believe in and support Turkey's territorial integrity", he told the court. 'I forgive those who lie and bear false witness against me'.

Brunson's detention has been sticking point in relations between Ankara and Washington, which have suffered due to disagreements over U.S. policy in Syria and court cases targeting Turks and Americans in both countries.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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