The case of Andrew Craig Brunson, a U.S. pastor arrested in Turkey for his links to terrorist groups, has revealed Washington's hypocrisy toward Turkish justice as the United States calls on Ankara to release him, ignoring the fact that the judiciary is independent from the political administration.
This convenient ignorance of judicial independence in the case of Brunson, who was linked to the terrorist groups PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), has irritated Ankara. Some five months after U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert called on Turkey to respect judicial independence in another case, President Donald Trump apparently forgot that fact and asked President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to release Brunson. In a tweet yesterday, Trump claimed Brunson has been "held hostage" and urged Erdoğan "do something to free this wonderful Christian husband and father." The "husband and father" in question is possibly facing 35 years in jail on charges of espionage, committing crimes on behalf of FETÖ - the group behind the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey - and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. He was arrested two years ago in the western city of İzmir where he ran an evangelical church. The U.S. reaction came after a Turkish court denied his release and adjourned the trial to October.
Philip Kosnett, the U.S. embassy charge d'affaires in Turkey, used softer rhetoric than Trump and told reporters after Wednesday's hearing that they had "great faith in the commitment of the Turkish people to justice." Yet, American officials have failed to point out that Turkey is a state ruled by law. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy mentioned this at a press conference yesterday and said this is how everyone should view the court's decision on Brunson. "This is a legal process, and it is being carried out in compliance with the principle of the supremacy of law," he said, adding that Brunson has had no restrictions on his rights while in custody.
Turkey's counterterrorism fight has repeatedly faced obstructions and objections from the U.S. Washington went the extra mile of briefly suspending visas for Turkish citizens when Metin Topuz, an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, was arrested for links to FETÖ last year. Scathing remarks from U.S. officials on the arrest of Topuz again drew the ire of Ankara, who in return pointed to the independence of the country's judiciary.