US Threatens Sanctions on Turkey If Jailed American Pastor Not Freed

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On Wednesday night, Trump tweeted: "A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison".

"He is suffering greatly", Trump added.

Turkey cited health reasons for releasing Brunson to home detention Wednesday.

An American pastor whose imprisonment for more than 600 days has tested relations between the U.S. and Turkey has been released from jail and placed under house arrest, in an apparent concession to repeated demands by American policymakers who called the man's detention a disgrace and threatened sanctions against Ankara.

Trump's ultimatum came on the same day US Vice President Mike Pence also threatened Turkey with sanctions unless it frees Brunson.

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Congress has considered imposing sanctions on Turkey over its detention of Brunson, including barring the sale of F-35 fighter jets. He could receive another 20 years if he is found guilty of espionage. Perkins said President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had been pushing for action, as well as USCIRF.

Turkey has also been publicly critical of criminal prosecutions in the US of state-run Halkbank official Mehmet Hakan Atilla and Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader. He was arrested in December 2016 and had been in custody since then.

A Turkish government official said the decision to detain American pastor Andrew Brunson falls within the country's jurisdiction, in a statement Thursday.

And this is not the first time in recent days the Secretary of State has been surprised by White House tweets on foreign policy, despite Pompeo's reported closeness with the president.


He is a 50-year-old American pastor who has been doing missionary work in Turkey for 23 years.

Turkey wants the United States to agree to his extradition.

In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if Washington handed over Gulen in a swap deal.

The president blamed Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for organizing the coup and has demanded that the United States extradite Gulen, who now lives in the United States.

While the Kurds have proven themselves to be invaluable allies to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the US considers the PKK, a Kurdish independence movement inside Turkey, as a terrorist organization for its violent tactics.

On Wednesday, the Izmir 2nd High Criminal Court chose to turn Brunson's detention into house arrest due to his "health problems". The case was adjourned until October 12.

Erdogan suggested previous year that Brunson's case could be connected to an extradition request for Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

A source told Hurriyet Daily News: "During the sanctions scheme of 2011 by the US, Tupras was able to purchase three to four cargoes of Iranian crude a month". Gulen denies any involvement in the coup, in which at least 250 people were killed. Brunson's case has become a cause for conservative Christians who form an important part of Trump's political base.

Last week, a bipartisan group of USA senators introduced a bill that would require Washington to reject worldwide loans to Turkey until Brunson and other Americans are freed or the harassment against them ends.

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