Turkey says will not tolerate threats after US warns of sanctions

Turkey says will not tolerate threats after US warns of sanctions

Turkey says will not tolerate threats after US warns of sanctions

Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson is escorted by Turkish police officers as he arrives at his house on Wednesday in Izmir.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday 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, the latest squabble between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Turkey's increasingly turbulent relationship with the United States lurched into uncharted waters following threats of "large sanctions" in a July 26 tweet from President Donald Trump over the continued detention of a North Carolina pastor in a Turkish prison.

US pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir, Turkey, July 25, 2018.

"Noone dictates Turkey", Çavuşoğlu wrote.

If convicted, Brunson could face up to 35 years in prison for "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups".

Mr Brunson will remain in detention pending the outcome of his trial, which has been adjourned until 12 October.

Trump said on Twitter last week that the pastor's detention was 'a total disgrace.' One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.


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. The Turkish government has not dropped the charges, and he still faces the possibility of spending up to 35 years in prison.

He was charged with spying for the PKK - a designated terrorist group in the US and Turkey - and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group Turkey accuses of orchestrating the defeated July 2016 coup attempt.

Just hours earlier, Vice President Mike Pence said that if Turkey does not take immediate action to free Brunson, "the United States of America will impose significant sanctions on Turkey".

The news is being praised by leading evangelical Christians, who form a key part of Trump's base and have long advocated for increased protections on religious freedom in the USA and overseas.

Mehmet Haka Atilla was convicted after well-connected Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, arrested in the U.S. in 2016, became a government witness and admitted involvement in a multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert USA economic sanctions against Iran.

Pence also criticized the government of Iran, less than a week after Trump tweeted an ALL CAPS warning to that country's president to "NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE".

Trump also directly called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to "do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father". Among the most pressing is a multi-billion-dollar fine that will likely be imposed on state-owned lender Halkbank for evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. Turkey, however, has a different description for Andrew Brunson: They say he's a spy and an abettor of terrorists who is working to overthrow the government.

On Wednesday, a Turkish court ordered that Brunson be freed from prison and placed under house arrest while his trial continues, according to Brunson's lawyer.

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