Published: Thu, July 26, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Turkey moves USA pastor to house arrest from prison

Turkey moves USA pastor to house arrest from prison

The High Criminal Court no:2 in Izmir made a decision to turn Brunson's detention into house arrest due to his "health problems".

Trump's threat came moments after Vice President Pence said the administration would impose sanctions on Turkey if Brunson was not released. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!". He spoke at the close of a three-day conference on religious freedom.

Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, was detained in October 2016 and indicted on charges of helping the group which Ankara says was behind a failed military coup earlier that year.

Brunson's detention deepened a rift between Washington and Ankara, which are also at odds over the Syrian war and Turkey's plan to buy missile defenses from Russian Federation.

President Trump, in a tweet last week, called Turkey's prosecution of Brunson "a total disgrace".

Arrested after the failed Turkish coup attempt in 2016, Brunson was charged with supposed ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party and USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey believes inspired much of the turbulence. The pastor, who has denied the charges, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

USCRIF annually issues a country-by-country, religious-freedom report to the State Department, which includes recommendations to the secretary of state and president for penalties against the worst violators. Pence said Erdogan should allow Brunson to return to the United States "now or be prepared to face the consequences".

Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir Turkey
ReutersU.S. pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously linked Brunson's return to the USA to the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, the cleric Turkey's government holds responsible for the failed July 2016 military coup.

Pompeo announced additional aid for a region of Iraq previously held by the Islamic State group.

Tweeting from aboard Air Force One, Trump said: "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".

Last September, Erdogan suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if Washington handed over Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania - an offer brushed off by Washington.

On Wednesday, a Turkish court ordered that Brunson be freed from prison and placed under house arrest while his trial continues, according to Brunson's lawyer.

The case has strained ties between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the United States.

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