US Threatens Sanctions on Turkey If Jailed American Pastor Not Freed

US Threatens Sanctions on Turkey If Jailed American Pastor Not Freed

"He is suffering greatly", Trump said of the 50-year-old pastor.

Brunson, an evangelical pastor and North Carolina native, will be released from jail in western Turkey and returned to his house because of "health problems", according to the Associated Press.

Pence warned that if Turkey does not take immediate action to free Brunson, "the United States of America will impose severe economic sanctions on Turkey".

Turkey's minister of foreign affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, indicated on Twitter that Ankara will not give in to Washington's threat.

"The US administration, which has taken no steps whatsoever against the terrorist group FETO until today, must understand that it can not reach desired results by threatening Turkey over an issue, which falls within the jurisdiction of the country's independent judiciary", Kalin said in a statement. "We will never tolerate threats from anybody", Cavusoglu posted on Twitter.

"Turkey is a state with the rule of law and the Turkish justice system treats everyone equally".

Although it is unclear when Brunson will be transferred from prison, his lawyer said the pastor's family was "elated" by the news he would be moved to house arrest.

It said Brunson's defence had been completed and evidence for the case was nearly all collected.

Mr Trump has repeatedly demanded the release of the evangelical Christian, who faces up to 15 years behind bars if found guilty of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member".

Lawmakers have also called on Turkey to release Brunson, and the final version of Congress's fiscal 2019 defense bill included a provision demanding Turkey "to release wrongfully detained US citizens including Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge", a scientist imprisoned in Turkey.

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Brunson, who protests his innocence, has languished in prison for the past 22 months over his alleged links to Kurdish militants and a Muslim religious cult that is blamed by Turkish authorities for plotting the failed July 2016 coup.

Andrew Brunson had already spent almost two years in detention on terrorism charges.

-Turkish relations and drawn the fire of President Donald Trump.

Brunson, who is from North Carolina and has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, has been accused of helping the Gulen group that Ankara says was behind a failed military coup in 2016.

Erdogan has said Turkey won't extradite anyone to the USA until it receives Fethullah Gulen, the cleric who has been living in Pennsylania.

Brunson's trial is one of several legal cases that have raised tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Most recently, the two locked horns after Turkey said it would not be affecting its business with Iran, just because the USA wanted to enforce sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

"We recognize that the Iranian people enjoy few, if any, freedoms", said Pence, "least of all the freedom of religion".

During a recent hearing, Brunson he rejected charges against him.

A Turkish government official said the decision to detain American pastor Andrew Brunson falls within the country's jurisdiction, in a statement Thursday. He is the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation.

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