This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A suspect detained on suspicion of carrying out a drive-by shooting on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara has told police he took part in the attack because he was angry about President Donald Trump’s statements on Turkey and the decline of Turkey’s currency against the U.S. dollar.
Thirty-nine-year-old Ahmet Celikten made the remarks to police after he and 38-year-old Osman Gundas were detained in connection with six shots that were fired from a car early on August 20 at the U.S. Embassy’s main entrance in Ankara.
The shooting was denounced by Turkey’s government as “a clear provocation” amid a crisis in U.S.-Turkish relations over Ankara’s continued detention of evangelical pastor Andrew Craig Brunson.
Washington has imposed sanctions against its NATO ally over Brunson’s ongoing detention and has increased tariffs in a move that sent the Turkish lira tumbling last week.
The lira has lost about 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar so far in 2018. Trump has said he would “give Turkey no concessions” in return for the release of Brunson.
Turkey could end the currency crisis “instantly” by freeing the pastor, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, told Reuters earlier.
Brunson, currently under house arrest after more than 1 1/2 years in prison, faces up to 35 years in a Turkish prison if convicted there of espionage and terrorism-related charges.
Turkish prosecutors claim Brunson had ties with the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has accused of orchestrating Turkey’s failed 2016 military coup.
Brunson denies any wrongdoing.
“Look, the Turkish government made a big mistake in not releasing Pastor Brunson,” Bolton told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Israel.
“Every day that goes by that mistake continues, this crisis could be over instantly if they did the right thing as a NATO ally, part of the West, and release pastor Brunson without condition.”
Asked if Washington questioned Turkey’s membership in NATO given the standoff, Bolton said: “That’s not an issue at the moment. We’re focused on pastor Brunson and the other Americans that the Turkish government’s holding illegitimately and we expect that to get resolved.”
Turkish authorities are holding more than a dozen other U.S. citizens, including a Turkish-American NASA scientist and a visiting chemistry professor from Pennsylvania, as well as three local staff members of the U.S. Consulate.
Last week, Trump signed a defense spending bill that includes delaying the delivery of F-35 fighter jets pending a Pentagon report. U.S. lawmakers have been working to block their delivery in response to Brunson’s arrest and Turkey’s pledge to buy Russian S-400 missile systems.