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US pastor imprisoned in Turkey rattles world markets

North America

US pastor imprisoned in Turkey rattles world markets

Andrew and Norine Brunson. Credit: Facebook Page

The imprisonment of a 50-year old American evangelical pastor by Turkish authorities on allegations of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization, have rattled world markets. Tensions between Turkey and the United States have risen causing the Lira to plunge with President Donald Trump raising tariffs on steel and other commodities coming from Turkey.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Turkey to release detained American pastor Andrew Brunson, saying he “needs to come home.”

Pompeo spoke to reporters at a security conference in Singapore before meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“Brunson needs to come home, as do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government. It’s pretty straightforward,” Pompeo said, according to NBC News. “Pastor Brunson is an innocent pastor, and they need to let him return to the United States.”

Brunson’s case has increased tensions between Turkey and the United States. Earlier this week, the US levied sanctions against Turkey’s minister of justice and minister of interior for their alleged roles in detaining Brunson.

In announcing the sanctions this week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called Brunson’s detention “unjust” and “unacceptable.”

President Donald Trump tweeted, “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”

Brunson, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for the last 23 years, has been in Turkish custody on terrorism and espionage charges since being arrested shortly after a failed coup on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government in July 2016. Brunson was among tens of thousands of individuals — including 20 Americans — arrested in the aftermath of the attempted military takeover.

Brunson was recently transferred from prison to house arrest, but still faces the same charges, which have a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison, his lawyer told NBC News.

Earlier, Vice President Mike Pence issued a similar threat at a religious freedom conference, saying that the U.S. would impose the sanctions if Brunson isn’t immediately released.

“I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America. Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.” Pence said.

Erdoğan has previously connected Brunson’s release with the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania. The Turkish government blames Gulen for orchestrating the coup, a charge he denies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued a stern statement on Twitter in response to the U.S. threats, writing that Turkey’s actions will not be dictated by the U.S.

“We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception,” he said.

Turkey is an important NATO ally for the U.S and hosts a base from which airstrikes against ISIS militants in Syria have been launched.

Turkey is a NATO ally, and imposing direct sanctions on a NATO ally is considered unusual.