Trump Demands Immediate Release Of US Pastor

Trump Demands Immediate Release Of US Pastor

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMeadows threatens to force a vote on Rosenstein impeachment Republican feels "victimized" by Twitter "shadow banning" GOP senators surprised to attend Trump's tariffs announcement MORE on Thursday threatened to impose economic sanctions on Turkey over its refusal to release an American pastor that has been detained in the country for more than year.

In a tweet, President Trump echoed that threat, calling Brunson "a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being".

However, President Trump demanded his immediate release, or Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, would face "large sanctions".

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, welcomed Andrew Brunson's release from prison - but said the decision did not go far enough.

Pence spoke at the close of a three-day conference in Washington on religious freedom.

An American pastor held in a Turkish prison for almost two years will be allowed to remain under house arrest as his trial on terror and espionage charges continues.

The NATO allies are also at odds over USA policy in Syria, where Washington's ally in the fight against Islamic State is a Kurdish militia Turkey says is an extension of the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey.

The Trump administration has repeatedly pressed the Turkish government to release Brunson, 50, a longtime resident of Turkey who was swept up in a campaign of mass arrests that followed a coup attempt against Erdogan in the summer of 2016. In Iraq, religious minority groups of Yazidis and Christians victimized by ISIS [Islamic State terror group] are still in dire need of security and assistance.

On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted, "No one dictates Turkey".

Andrew Brunson
Image Andrew Brunson has been suffering health problems

The pastor, who worked in Turkey for over 22 years, was detained in 2016 after being blamed for helping rebels in a coup.

The United States has long used bases in Turkey for operations across the Middle East, but relations have been strained by Washington's support for Kurdish fighters in Syria.

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

"The fact that Brunson was moved to house arrest indicates Ankara got the message but still has plans to use Brunson as a trump card in other outstanding issues in bilateral ties", she said.

Brunson served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation, and has lived in Turkey for 23 years. The crackdown has targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures.

Trump has spoken about Brunson already this year, bringing up his case in May during a ceremony to mark the release of an American held by Venezuela's government. 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".

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.

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