A Turkish court on Tuesday ruled against American Andrew Brunson’s appeal to be released from house arrest, marking another setback for the Christian pastor who has been detained on trumped-up terrorism charges for almost two years.
In response to pressure from the Trump administration, Brunson was allowed on July 25 to leave the jail where he was being held and placed under house arrest.
Brunson, 50, could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted for his alleged involvement with U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist, U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
Brunson, who is from North Carolina, has been a missionary in Turkey for two decades and has repeatedly denied the charges.
The Associated Press (AP) reported the court in Izmir, Turkey, refused to lift a travel ban that prevents Brunson from leaving the country saying there was no change in the “strong criminal suspicion” against him.
President Donald Trump announced that possibility of imposing sanctions on Turkey if Brunson was not released, drawing swift reaction from Ankara.
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) July 26, 2018
“It is unacceptable for the United States to use threatening language against Turkey over a continuing judicial case,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in the AP report. ”Turkey will never give up on its principled stance.”
Kalin said Turkey would seek international arbitration if the United States refused to deliver promised F-35 fighter jets in retaliation.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke about Brunson at the U.S. State Department’s first Ministerial on Religious Freedom last week in Washington, DC.
“As we gather here today, there’s one victim of religious persecution that bears mentioning as well,” Pence said. “A victim of persecution who’s not with us.
“An American named Pastor Andrew Brunson,” Pence said. “Pastor Brunson was imprisoned without being charged for more than a year.”
“The Turkish government finally indicted him,” Pence said. “They accused him allegedly of dividing and separating Turkey by simply spreading his Christian faith.”
“Pastor Andrew Brunson is an innocent man,” Pence said. “There is no credible evidence against him.”
The next court hearing in Brunson’s case is scheduled for October 12.
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