Trump threatens 'large' sanctions on Turkey unless US pastor released

Trump threatens 'large' sanctions on Turkey unless US pastor released

Donald Trump has threatened to slap “large sanctions” on Turkey unless Ankara frees an American pastor whose detention has further strained relations between the Nato allies. The Trump administration escalated its pressure campaign the day after a Turkish court allowed Andrew Brunson to be transferred to house arrest after 21 months in detention. He is on trial on terrorism charges.

“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their longtime detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!“ Shortly before, the vice-president, Mike Pence, a devout Christian, levelled a similar threat directly at Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“To President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, 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 at a religious freedom event hosted by the US state department.

In response, Turkey’s foreign ministry said the US administration should leave aside “wrongful rhetoric” and return to “constructive dialogue”. “It is impossible to accept the US administration’s threatening messages, which totally disregard our alliance and friendly relations between our countries,” a spokesman said in a statement. Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, was more blunt, tweeting: “We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”

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