On Monday the imprisoned Pastor Andrew Brunson, a U.S. citizen, made an appeal to the Turkish high court regarding his case. Brunson ran a Protestant church in Izmir and was arrested on terrorism-related charges in October 2016. Brunson, having spent almost two years in prison, was relocated from jail to house arrest last week. An appeal was submitted by Brunson’s lawyer, Cem Halavurt, for the pastor’s “house arrest and the ban on him leaving the country to be lifted.” The Turkish court must reply by the end of the week according to Halavurt. Brunson’s next hearing is scheduled for October 12.
Despite Brunson’s transition from a jail cell to his house, the move by the Turkish government only served to increase diplomatic tension between the United States and Turkey. Various media outlets are reporting that the Turkish government has gone back on a deal to free Brunson but the government has vehemently denied these claims. President Donald Trump claimed that the U.S. would levy “large sanctions” against Turkey should they neglect to release Brunson. President Donald Trump asserted that, “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed the threats as baseless and claimed the sanctions would not force Turkey’s hand nor would they “step back” under pressure. President Erdogan stated to local media that,
The U.S. should not forget that it could lose a strong and sincere partner like Turkey if it does not change its attitude.”
Pastor Brunson is looking at a maximum of 35 years prison time should he be convicted of the terrorism charges. Brunson has been accused of aiding Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen — who Turkey claims orchestrated the failed military coup in 2016. Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu should be meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore; the two will likely discuss the situation further.
Featured image: President Donald Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey at the United Nations General Assembly | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead