US threatens sanctions unless Turkey releases American pastor

Turkish court rules that US pastor move from jail to house arrest

President Trump on Thursday said the United States would impose "large sanctions" on Turkey for its detainment of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor held for almost two years on terrorism-related charges, who us officials say is innocent. He was arrested in December 2016 and had been in custody since then.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed the decision to move Brunson to house arrest, but said it was "not enough".

The pastor denies the charges and his defence team argues the case is built on questionable witness statements that should never have been brought to court.

Supporters claim he is effectively a political prisoner being held as a bargaining chip by Turkey, who is actively seeking the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric it blames for the failed coup.

At the end of a recent hearing, the court inside a prison complex in western Turkey rejected Brunson's lawyer's request that he be freed pending the outcome of the trial.

Brunson, 50, has been charged with espionage as well as aiding outlawed Kurdish militants and an American-based anti-government Turkish cleric in a 2016 coup attempt.

Halavurt also says Brunson's family is happy progress is being made in his case, but they still feel betrayed by the country their kids grew up in.

I'm not driven by revenge, insists Hamilton
So I couldn't tell you. "We had eye contact on the podium, and I think it's pretty clear to us that what I said to Valtteri is something that I would also say in the team".

On July 18, a court had again ordered Brunson to remain in prison, defying growing pressure from the USA authorities for his release and causing dismay among supporters. Sam Brownback, ambassador-at-large for global religious freedom, referenced Brunson during his opening remarks on Tuesday.

"Brunson is an innocent man, there is no credible evidence against him", Pence said.

U.S. support for Kurdish forces fighting the Syrian civil war and its refusal to extradite Mr Gulen have angered President Erdogan, while Turkey's decision a year ago to buy Russian anti-aircraft missiles drew controversy.

Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson's release and said on Twitter last week that the pastor's detention was "a total disgrace".

Philip Kosnett, the United States charge d'affaires in Ankara, who attended all three hearings, said last week he did not believe "there is any indication that pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity".

Mr Gulen has denied any involvement in the attempted coup.

The Trump administration escalated its pressure campaign the day after a Turkish court allowed Andrew Brunson to be transferred to house arrest after 21 months in detention.

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