Lawyer of jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson demands his release

Published 30.07.2018 18:03
Updated 31.07.2018 17:28
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The lawyer of jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is accused of spying for the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) terrorist organizations, demanded Monday that Brunson be released from house arrest.

Brunson's lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, objected to the decision that converted his detention into two years of house arrest, the Hürriyet daily reported. According to Hürriyet, the lawyer also demanded the removal of the ban that keeps Brunson from leaving the country.

The crisis between Turkey and the U.S. broke out after Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened Turkey with sanctions on Twitter.

On Thursday last week, Trump tweeted, "The U.S. will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their longtime 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!"

Moreover, Sunday, Pence reiterated his threat. "As I said earlier this week - and @POTUS has made clear - transferring Pastor Andrew Brunson to home arrest, it's just not good enough. And the United States of America is prepared to bring sanctions against Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free," he said on Twitter.

Ankara has continued to reject the U.S.' threatening tone on the issue of Brunson, at the same time government officials called on Washington to keep dialogue channels open.

According to information obtained by the Sabah newspaper from senior diplomatic sources, the Turkish government clearly stated to the Trump administration that threatening an ally was not appropriate.

The sources stressed that there has been an intensive diplomacy traffic for pastor Brunson between Ankara and Washington since last week and that they do not accept the threatening messages of the U.S. that ignore the alliance and friendship between the two countries.

"Turkey does not accept intimidating words. The Turkish judicial system is independent. It would not be right to interfere with an ongoing legal process. You should have confidence in the Turkish judicial system," officials in Ankara reportedly told their counterparts in Washington.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call Saturday, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

Separately, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement that Pompeo and Çavuşoğlu "discussed the case of pastor Andrew Brunson."

"The secretary and foreign minister committed to continued discussions to resolve the matter and address other issues of common concern," Nauert added.

The conversation followed Thursday's phone call between Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo after Turkey responded to the Trump remarks when he threatened the country with sanctions unless Ankara released the detained American pastor, in a move seen as an attempt to interfere with the judiciary of NATO-member Turkey.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu responded to the threat in a tweet, "No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception."

Brunson was arrested in September 2016, in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey that was carried out by FETÖ. He is accused of links to FETÖ as well as the PKK terrorist group.

Last week, a court in Izmir ordered that Brunson be put under house arrest as his trial continues, citing health problems.

The American pastor will be also fitted with an ankle monitor and is 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.

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