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Turkey has been detaining US pastor for 21 months – Trump and Pence have had enough

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence | July 19, 2017 (Joyce N. Boghosian/White House)
July 27, 2018

American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is detained in Turkey, is the center of President Trump’s recent tweets and threats against a foreign government.

President Trump tweeted on Thursday: “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!”

Brunson was arrested by Turkish officials in 2016 during widespread arrests following a failed military coup, Time Magazine reported.

Thousands were arrested, including Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s opponents, activists and those in the media.

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Brunson was charged with being a spy in connection with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as was Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who was suspected of being behind the coup attempt.

The spying charges can carry a prison sentence of up to 35 years. Brunson denied the charges, with his lawyer calling them “totally unfounded,” and blaming the arrest on Brunson’s Christian faith.

American evangelicals have rallied behind Brunson, angered over what appears to be Turkey persecuting Brunson over his faith.

Vice President Mike Pence is one of those evangelicals to speak out on the issue.

He said there is “no credible evidence” against Brunson, and also called on Erdogan to “release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”

Pence recently attended a religious freedom conference held at the State Department where Brunson’s daughter was also in attendance. He said Brunson was accused of “dividing and separating Turkey by simply spreading his Christian faith.”

On Wednesday, Brunson was released due to health reasons after serving 21 months in prison. He was placed on house arrest, and Turkey continues to prohibit his release.

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Pence, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said Brunson’s house arrest release was “not good enough.”

Pence demanded Brunson’s return home and promised sanctions against Turkey “until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.”

Turkey doesn’t appear to be budging in the face of the threats.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu‏ tweeted: “We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”

President Erdogan previously suggested that Turkey may trade Brunson for the Pennsylvania-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who they believe to be responsible for the coup attempt.

Last month, lawmakers considered attempts to block the transfer of F-35 jets to Turkey due to compromised U.S.-Turkish relations and Erdogan’s “reckless governance,” along with Brunson’s unjust detainment.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed legislation this week to impose financial sanctions on Turkey until Brunson and other U.S. citizens are released, NPR reported.

Chairman of the committee, Sen. Bob Corker, said: “We never wanted this bill to be necessary, but we warned the Turkish government that there would be consequences if it did not cease its unjust detention and harassment of U.S. citizens and locally employed Embassy staff.”

No details have been provided to elaborate on the sanctions imposed on Turkey, nor a deadline established for Brunson’s release.