Turkey: American pastor on trial for terror let out of jail

26 July, 2018, 20:14 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to purchase a collection of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defences

A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday that an American pastor be transferred from jail to house arrest, his lawyer said, after almost two years in detention on terrorism charges in a case which has strained ties between Ankara and Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said the United States would impose significant sanctions on Turkey over its detention of American Christian pastor Andrew Brunson and called on Ankara to immediately release him.

Brunson, 50, an evangelical Christian pastor originally from North Carolina, was let out of jail on Wednesday, after more than a year, to serve house arrest because of 'health problems, ' according to Turkey's official Anadolu news agency.

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.

Brunson strongly denies the charges.

Turkey blames Mr Gulen for a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that year.

A prison vehicle, believed to be carrying jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson, leaves from the Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in Izmir, Turkey July 18, 2018.

The Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3 strengthened to 4.8325 against the dollar from 4.8599 before the report.

Mevlut Cavusoglu has further strained tensions between the US and Turkey
Mevlut Cavusoglu has further strained tensions between the US and Turkey

If convicted, Brunson faces up to 15 years in prison for "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member, " references to outlawed Kurdish militants and the network of a US-based Muslim cleric blamed for a failed coup attempt.

Last October, Arriaga and then-USCIRF Vice Chairman Sandra Jolley were granted access to Kiriklar Prison in Izmir to visit with Brunson, the first visitors outside of family, legal counsel and U.S. Embassy officials.

Andrew Brunson's detention deepened a rift between the United States and Turkey.

On July 18, a court had again ordered Brunson to remain in prison, defying growing pressure from the United States authorities for his release and causing dismay among supporters.

Two Turkish employees from American missions in Turkey are also behind bars - a US Istanbul consulate staffer charged with espionage and an employee at the US consulate in Adana charged with supporting the PKK. Pence said Erdogan should allow Brunson to return to the United States "now or be prepared to face the consequences".

Mr Gulen has denied any involvement in the attempted coup.

The US Senate passed a bill last month including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because of Brunson's imprisonment and Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defence system.

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