Trump threatens Turkey sanctions over pastor

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a press conference in Ankara

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a press conference in Ankara

An American pastor whose imprisonment for more than 600 days has tested relations between the U.S. and Turkey has been released from jail and placed under house arrest, in an apparent concession to repeated demands by American policymakers who called the man's detention a disgrace and threatened sanctions against Ankara.

US President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence have threatened Turkey with sanctions if it fails to release jailed pastor Andrew Brunson.

Trump, tweeting from aboard Air Force One, called Brunson "a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being".

However, President Trump demanded his immediate release, or Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, would face "large sanctions".

US Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday at a conference on religious freedom in Washington that "there is no credible evidence" against Brunson.

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.

Last week a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would require the United States to reject worldwide loans to Turkey until Brunson and other Americans are freed or the harassment against them ends.

A source told Hurriyet Daily News: "During the sanctions scheme of 2011 by the US, Tupras was able to purchase three to four cargoes of Iranian crude a month".

Trump threatens Turkey sanctions over pastor

President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson's release and said on Twitter last week that the pastor's detention was "a total disgrace". He also condemned Islamic State group violence toward religious minorities and what he described as rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

It remains unclear how Turkey will respond to the president's warning, the harshest ultimatum to Turkey in recent memory that sent the Turkish lira falling sharply against the dollar. Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the failed coup, and has long sought his extradition to Turkey.

The United States and Turkey are both members of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a new commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told Religion News Service on Wednesday that the ministerial could have been one of several factors in this latest development in Brunson's case.

Erdogan has previously linked Brunson's return to the the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, the cleric Turkey's government holds responsible for a failed July 2016 military coup.

Any release and return to the USA has previously been linked to the extradition of Turkish military coup suspect Fethullah Gulen, who is living in exile in Pennsylvania. The crackdown has targeted journalists, activists and opposition figures. Washington may have thought it had a deal with Ankara and that Brunson was going to be freed and allowed to fly home on after his third hearing on July 18. He has lived in Turkey for more than two decades.

"The United States must reconsider its approach and adopt a constructive position before inflicting further damage to its own interests and its alliance with Turkey".

On July 18, the court rejected his defense lawyers' pleas to let him go and remanded Brunson in custody pending a fourth hearing on October 12. "I forgive those who lie and bear false witness against me".

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