U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said this week that the Trump administration would continue to put pressure on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan through sanctions and other means until American citizen and pastor Andrew Brunson is released from house arrest and returned to the United States.
Brownback told Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, on his national radio program Washington Watch Tuesday that the U.S. has tried to gain Brunson’s release through diplomatic efforts but now feels it is necessary to take a tougher stance.
“You haven’t acted, so we will,” is how Brownback described President Donald Trump’s “decisive, aggressive action” against Turkey for holding a U.S. citizen illegally on unproven terrorism charges.
And this action will not cease until Brunson is freed, according to Brownback.
“We’re going to continue to apply the pressure until you do,” Brownback said.
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence affirmed that the Trump administration would continue its efforts on behalf of Brunson, according to Kurdistan24.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson is an innocent man held in Turkey & justice demands that he be released,” Pence tweeted.
“Turkey would do well not to test @POTUS Trump’s resolve to see Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned in foreign lands returned home to the United States,” Pence tweeted.
A Turkish court once again rejected an appeal for Brunson’s release on Wednesday.
“We feel that Turkey, and specifically President Erdogan, have treated Pastor Brunson — who we know to be a very good person and a strong Christian who’s done nothing wrong — very unfairly, very badly,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday, Kurdistan24 reported. “It’s something that we won’t forget in the administration.”
Sanders said the sanctions on Turkish Interior and Justice Ministers “would not be removed” until the release of Brunson.
While Erdogan has said Turkey would respond to the sanctions by boycotting U.S. goods, Aljazerra reported Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is sending a more positive message but cautioned about the Trump administration on its tone in future negotiations.
“Despite everything, we are ready to talk about everything to solve the existing problems as equal partners,” Causoglu said. “I speak openly but only on one condition – no threatening, no dictating.”
Brunson has been detained in Turkey for almost two years for his alleged involvement in a failed coup against Erdogan’s regime. If convicted of what the government considered terrorist activities Brunson could face as many as 35 years behind bars.
Brunson, who is originally from North Carolina, has been a pastor and missionary in Turkey for two decades.
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