Turkey’s Erdogan leaves fate of U.S. Evangelist in hands of justice

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday said his Government cannot decide over the fate of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson whose release hinges on court ruling.

“This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges … On Oct 12 there will be another hearing and we don’t know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict,” Erdogan said in an interview on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Brunson was transferred to house arrest in July after he has been in detention for 21 months. The U.S. religious leader from North Carolina has been held on terrorism charges in relation with the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey.

Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that he hoped the American citizen would be released this month.

“As the president, I don’t have the right to order his release. Our judiciary is independent. Let’s wait and see what the court will decide,” Erdogan said.

Brunson’s fate has rolled relations between Ankara and Washington. U.S. President Donald and his administration believe the evangelist has been unfairly detained and have demanded his immediate release.

Washington in August doubled tariffs on aluminium and steel imported from Turkey and targeted two Turkish ministers with economic sanctions. Ankara retaliated by imposing increased tariffs on U.S. cars, alcohol and tobacco imports.

The Turkish economy has been flagging for several months with national currency lira losing 40 per cent of its value against the dollar this year over the ongoing spat and Erdogan’s grip on monetary policy.

Erdogan in the interview denied any connection between the slow economy and Bruson’s situation.

“The Brunson case is not even closely related to Turkey’s economy. The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources,” Erdogan said.

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