Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo that Turkey will not bow to U.S. threats over the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American who was held in a Turkish prison on terrorism charges since 2016.
Detailing a phone conversation held between the two top diplomats on Thursday, the foreign ministry sources said Çavuşoğlu reminded Pompeo that the rule of law applies everyone in Turkey without an exception.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department released a statement regarding the phone call, saying Pompeo "underscored that it is well past time for this innocent Pastor Andrew Brunson to come home."
One day after a Turkish court ordered his release from jail and commuted Brunson's detention to house arrest, U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened economic sanctions against Turkey.
"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!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
Addressing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a tweet, Pence also said: "Release Pastor Andrew Brunson NOW or be prepared to face the consequences. If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free."
His remarks came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said house arrest was "not enough" and called on Turkish authorities to "resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner."
Turkey's Foreign Minister responded by saying that Turkey was governed by the rule of law. "We will never tolerate threats from anybody," Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter. He later held a phone call with U.S. counterpart Pompeo regarding the matter. No further details were immediately available.
"No one can threaten or give orders to Turkey," said Hami Aksoy, a spokesman for the ministry. Turkey has shown the political will to improve relations with the U.S., he said, calling on Washington to engage in dialogue.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said: "Turkey is a sovereign state with a deep-rooted democratic tradition and political order which upholds the supremacy of law. No one can give orders to Turkey and threaten our country. The rhetoric of threat against Turkey is unacceptable."
Aksoy said Turkey has already done "more than enough" and displayed political will regarding the issue.
"As regards the Brunson case, necessary information has been provided to our U.S. counterparts on various occasions and it has been clearly expressed that this issue is totally within the competence of the independent Turkish judiciary," Aksoy said.
Brunson was arrested in September 2016, in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Turkey blamed on Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). He is accused of links to FETÖ as well as the PKK terrorist group. A court in the western city of İzmir has ordered his imprisonment to be commuted to house arrest, citing Brunson's health problems. He will be also fitted with an ankle monitor and barred from leaving the country. He is scheduled to appear before a court in October for his third hearing after the court rejected an appeal for his release in a July 18 hearing.