Published: Thu, July 26, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

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

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

"We are very thankful for this court ruling to allow Andrew to be detained at his house instead of behind bars, where he has spent more than 21 months", said Jeff Jeremiah, the stated clerk, or overseer, of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Brunson's denomination. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!" the president added from aboard Air Force One as he flew to Iowa for an event.

Andrew Brunson had already spent almost two years in detention on terrorism charges.

Pence's initial announcement of possible sanctions came at the close of a three-day conference on religious freedom. One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.

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

Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson's release and said on Twitter last week that the pastor's detention was "a total disgrace". "An American named Pastor Andrew Brunson", said Pence.

Philip Kosnett, the USA charge d'affaires in Ankara, who attended all three hearings, said last week he did not believe "there is any indication that pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity".

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and gives remarks at their headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 6, 2018.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed what he said was the "long overdue news" of Brunson's transfer, but said it was not enough. The Vice President also berated the governments of North Korea, China, Russia, Nicaragua, and Iran, over treatment of religious communities in their respective countries.

"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being", tweeted Trump.

Brunson was indicted on charges of helping supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the US-based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which 250 people were killed.

The Second High Penal Court in the western province of Izmir rejected Andrew Brunson's plea for release, and instead made a decision to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing scheduled for October 12. The case was adjourned until October 12.

Last September, Erdogan suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if Washington handed over Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania - an offer brushed off by Washington.

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