Turkey: Ankara rejects U.S. threats for American Pastor’s release

President Tayyip Erdogan’s office and the foreign minister Thursday indicated that the United States will not attain the release of US pastor Andrew Craig Brunson with threats.

The reaction came after President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence threatened to impose economic sanctions on Turkey.

The U.S. administration will not “reach desired results by threatening Turkey over an issue, which falls within the jurisdiction of our country’s independent judiciary,” said İbrahim Kalın, spokesman for the Turkish President.

Kalin urged the Trump administration to reconsider its approach and adopt a constructive position before inflicting further damage to its own interests and alliance with Turkey, Turkish media, Daily Sabah notes.

The Foreign Minister also in the same tone lambasted the U.S. for the threats.

“We will never tolerate threats from anybody,” twitted the Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu. The Turkish top diplomat reportedly held a phone conversation with his U.S. counterpart, Mike Pompeo, but no details of the conversation were revealed.

President Trump earlier in the day drew the ire of Turkey after he tweeted that the NATO ally will face economic sanctions if it does not free the North Carolina Pastor held in Turkey for two years now, on terror charges. Trump was seconded by his Vice President Mike Pence who promised consequences.

“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!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“Release Pastor Andrew Brunson NOW or be prepared to face the consequences. 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.”

Brunson, an evangelical Pastor from North Carolina, who was leading a church in Izimir for around 20 years, has been held following July 2016 failed coup over terrorism charges. The American Pastor is suspected for having contact with members of Erdogan’s U.S.-based foe Fethullah Gülen’s organization FETO accused by Turkish authorities for being behind the failed coup. He also allegedly harbors in his church members of PKK, a militant group opposed to Ankara and which has been blacklisted by the west as terror group.

Brunson was expected to be freed last week but a court remanded him in prison. An Izimir court this week ordered the conversion of his imprisonment to house arrest and prohibited him against leaving the country. The court also requested he wears an ankle monitor. He is expected to appear in court for another hearing in October. The Pastor could be sentenced to up to 35 years in prison if he is found guilty.

Brunson’s case has compounded strained relations between both NATO members. Ankara has filed for Gülen but Washington has not nodded to the request. A group of U.S. lawmakers also tried to push sanctions against Ankara for its plans to buy Russian S-400 missile system.

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