Trump Warns Turkey: Free Pastor Brunson or Face 'Large Sanctions'


If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free. Pence warned if Turkey did not take "immediate action" to free Brunson, the US would move to impose "significant" sanctions. Vice President Mike Pence made a similar announcement at a religious freedom event earlier in the day.

"The government of Turkey continues to make a mockery of justice in its treatment of Pastor Brunson", said Kristina Arriaga, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in response to the ruling. One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.

Brunson was first imprisoned on terrorism charges after an attempted coup in the summer of 2016 against President Recep Erdoğan.

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.

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The case, which was adjourned until October 12, has strained ties between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the United States.

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. He was swept up by Turkish authorities along with journalists, activists, military officers and others in a government crackdown following a failed military coup attempt in 2016.

Turkey has also been publicly critical of criminal prosecutions in the USA of state-run Halkbank official Mehmet Hakan Atilla and Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader.

If convicted, Brunson faces up to 15 years in prison for 'committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member'.

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While Brunson has been released from prison for health reasons, he remains under house arrest. The Turkish government finally indicted him.

Brunson's release had been widely expected earlier this month after Donald Trump praised Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, leading to speculation that the pastor might be released at a 18 July hearing.

At the end of a recent hearing, the court inside a prison complex in western Turkey rejected Brunson's lawyer's request that he be freed pending the outcome of the trial.

Brunson served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation, and has lived in Turkey for 23 years.

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"I believe in and support Turkey's territorial integrity", he told the court.