Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey would never tolerate threats after US President Donald Trump pledged to implement "large sanctions" if Ankara refuses to free the American pastor.
"No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception,"
President Trump tweeted Thursday that the US would impose "large sanctions" against Ankara if Brunson was not "immediately" released.
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. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 26 июля 2018 г.
Vice President Mike Pence similarly warned Ankara that if steps were not taken immediately to ensure Brunson's release, "the United States of America will impose severe economic sanctions on Turkey."
Speaking at a conference on religious freedom, Pence said the pastor was "an innocent man" and that there was "no credible evidence against him."
Pence earlier spoke to Brunson by telephone, promising that the "entire" administration would "keep working to secure his full release."
Spoke by phone w/ Pastor Andrew Brunson after his release from prison in Turkey. While out of prison, this man of faith is still under house arrest. Assured him @POTUS & our entire Admin will keep working to secure his full release & get him back to the USA #FreePastorBrunson— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) 26 июля 2018 г.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that while the US welcomed the "long overdue news" that Brunson had been moved to house arrest, this was "not enough." Pompeo urged Turkish authorities to "resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner."
We welcome long overdue news that Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest in #Turkey, but it is not enough. We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner. pic.twitter.com/So2A4hfinZ— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) 25 июля 2018 г.
Brunson, 50, had lived and worked in Turkey for over 23 years and was arrested in October 2016 in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt against President Erdogan. The pastor was accused of being affiliated with the Gulen movement, an organization led by Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish authorities believe masterminded the coup attempt. The charges against him were later amended to include espionage and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government. He has also been accused of working for the PKK, a Turkish-Kurdish militant group, which Ankara classifies as a terrorist organization. Brunson has denied all the charges.
Brunson's family has urged US authorities to take action to free the pastor. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison. Turkish media reported that Brunson had been moved from prison to house arrest for "health reasons."
President Trump recently tweeted on a Turkish court's refusal to free the pastor last week, calling the move "a total disgrace" and urging President Erdogan to "do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father."
A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 19 июля 2018 г.
Ankara had earlier proposed swapping Brunson for Gulen. The Obama and Trump administrations have rejected all Turkish efforts to extradite the Islamic preacher back to his home country.