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Iran Press TV

Trump threatens sanctions unless Turkey releases American pastor

Iran Press TV

Thu Jul 26, 2018 03:03PM

US President Donald Trump has threatened to impose "large sanctions" on NATO ally Turkey over its detention of American Christian pastor Andrew Brunson and called on Ankara to immediately release him.

"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being," Trump tweeted on Thursday.

"He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!" he added.

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

Shortly before Trump's tweet, US Vice President Mike Pence, leveled a similar threat directly at Turkey's president.

"To President (Tayyip) Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences," Pence said at a religious freedom event in Washington hosted by the US State Department.

"The United States of America will impose severe economic sanctions on Turkey," he added.

The pastor's detention is one of the issues that have created tension between the two NATO allies in recent months, along with a dispute over a Turkish cleric living in the United States whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a failed military coup in Turkey last year.

Brunson was arrested in December 2016 and later indicted on charges of having links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group and movement of the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The pastor, who has denied the charges, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

Ankara views PKK militants as terrorists which have been fighting Turkey for autonomy. Turkey also accuses Gulen of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Last month, the US Senate passed a bill, including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying F-35 all-weather stealth multirole jet fighters because of Brunson's imprisonment and Ankara's planned purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defense missile systems.

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