Published: Thu, July 26, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Turkey moves USA pastor from prison to house arrest

Turkey moves USA pastor from prison to house arrest

The High Criminal Court no:2 in Izmir chose to turn Brunson's detention into house arrest due to his "health problems".

Pence said Thursday that if Turkey does not take immediate action to free Andrew Craig Brunson, "the United States of America will impose severe economic sanctions on Turkey". "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!" the president added from aboard Air Force One as he flew to Iowa for an event.

The Rev. Andrew Brunson, a Protestant missionary, has spent almost two years in jail on charges of collaborating with Turkey's foes and attempting to stir chaos by inciting hatred based on religious and ethnic differences.

The president's threat follows an equally strong warning from Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke Thursday at the first ever global conference on religious freedom.

Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, was detained in October 2016 and indicted on charges of helping the group which Ankara says was behind a failed military coup earlier that year. One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.

US President Donald Trump had described the latest ruling to keep him in jail a "disgrace", calling on his Erdogan to help free him.

If convicted, Brunson pastor faces up to 15 years in prison for "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member", references to outlawed Kurdish militants and the network of a U.S-based Muslim cleric blamed for a failed coup attempt.

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US officials had been under the impression that the deal was in place, the source said, adding that when Brunson was not released, Pence spoke with Trump and the two agreed harsh new policy measures were needed to force the issue.

The pastor, who denies the charges, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty. The Vice President also berated the governments of North Korea, China, Russia, Nicaragua, and Iran, over treatment of religious communities in their respective countries.

Erdoğan has previously linked his fate to that of Gülen, whose extradition from the United States has been a long-held demand of Turkish authorities.

Brunson was accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US -based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the coup attempt against President Tayyip Erdogan in which 250 people were killed.

At the end of a recent hearing, the court inside a prison complex in western Turkey rejected Brunson's lawyer's request that he be freed pending the outcome of the trial.

Gulen denies any involvement in the coup bid.

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