U.S. threatens to sanction Turkey over detained American preacher

U.S. threatens to sanction Turkey over detained American preacher

"He is suffering greatly", Trump said of 50-year-old pastor Andrew Brunson. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!"

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council and a diehard Trump fan, showed support for the White House's actions on Twitter.

On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted, "No one dictates Turkey".

"No-one can give orders to Turkey and threaten our country", said spokesperson Hami Aksoy. Still, Thursday's threat of sanctions marks a distinct escalation in rhetoric that coincides with a broader cooling in the US-Turkey relationship. "Rule of law is for everyone; no exception", Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.

Brunson was moved from jail to house arrest on July 26 due to health problems, according to Turkey's official news agency.

Pompeo said "no credible evidence" had been presented against the pastor and called on Ankara to resolve the case in a "fair" way.

US President Donald Trump decided in May to abandon the 2015 deal agreed with other world powers on Iran's nuclear programme and reimpose nuclear-related sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The United States and Turkey are both members of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation that would impose financial penalties on Turkey until the government ends the detention of Brunson and other USA citizens.

Turkey accuses Brunson of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member" and of espionage. He faces up to 35 years in prison.

"In Turkey, Pastor Andrew Brunson remains wrongfully imprisoned on false charges", Brownback told foreign delegates and civil society representatives.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that the United States extradite his political rival, Fethullah Gulen, in exchange for Brunson's release.

Turkish authorities have accused Brunson of being involved with a failed military coup against Erdogan in 2016. Gulen denies the charges.

Erdogan has in the past linked Brunson's fate with that of the US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

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.

Turkey on Friday hosted an American delegation for talks to address concerns about the potential negative impact on its economy of the looming reimposition of United States sanctions against Iran.

US senators have pushed to delay Turkey's acquisition of American-made F-35 fighter jets, citing Brunson's case and the Russian S-400 missile system Turkey has agreed to buy.

On July 18, the court rejected his defense lawyers' pleas to let him go and remanded Brunson in custody pending a fourth hearing on October 12.

Andrew Brunson's detention deepened a rift between the USA and Turkey.

The Trump administration has long highlighted Brunson's case, raising it with Turkish officials and in statements in the media.

In April, a bipartisan group of senators led by Thom Tillis of North Carolina signed a letter expressing concern about Brunson's situation and describing the accusations as "flights of fantasy, and random character assassination".

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