President Donald Trump demanded that Turkey immediately release Pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest. In the tersely worded tweet, the President promised “large sanctions” if Turkey did not release the “innocent man of faith.”
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. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Turkish courts released Brunson from his 21-month imprisonment on Wednesday and placed him under house arrest because of health concerns. He will wear a monitoring bracelet until his trial resumes in October.
Turkish authorities imprisoned the longtime pastor and missionary after a failed coup attempt in 2013. They accused him of having ties to a group led by American cleric Fethullah Gulenand the Turkish Workers Party. The Turkish government considers both groups to be terrorist organizations. Brunson claims he has no ties to the group and does not take part in political activities in his pastoral work.
Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting with NATO allies earlier this month. Trump agreed to release a Turkish citizen imprisoned in the United States in exchange for Brunson’s release. The President believed the deal to be ironclad until he was blindsided the Turkish government’s decision to keep Brunson under house arrest. This led to a tense phone call between the two leaders, followed by President Trump’s angry tweet.
Brunson, a North Carolina native, served as the pastor of a small evangelical Presbyterian congregation in the coastal city of Izmir. He and his wife have worked in Turkey for twenty-three years.
Other members of President Trump’s administration spoke out and took action after Wednesday’s action by the Turkish courts. Vice President Mike Pence spoke about Brunson’s case during a speech at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. He said that Brunson “is an innocent man” and that the move to house arrest was “a welcome first step, but it is not good enough.” He told the applauding audience that administration has worked tirelessly for Brunson’s release and that Brunson “deserves to be free.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over the phone. The two discussed the threat of sanctions, though officials did not elaborate on the details.
The Senate included an amendment proposed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., in the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment prevents the shipment of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft to Turkey until the Defense Department reports to Congress on the potential effects of Turkey’s attempt to purchase an air and missile defense system from Russia.
The Senators said the amendment was in direct response to the continued detailing and prosecution of Brunson. In a statement released by Shaheen’s staff, the two Senators said, “Senators Shaheen and Tillis felt it inappropriate and dangerous to send Turkey F-35 aircraft at this time, while the Turkish government continues to wrongfully imprison Americans and U.S. embassy staff.”
President Erdogan has not responded personally, but Foreign Minister Cavusoglu tweeted, “Noone dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”
Noone dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) July 26, 2018
If Pastor Brunson is convicted at his trial this fall, he faces thirty-five years in prison.
Publication Date: July 27, 2018
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