Donald Trump threatens North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey with sanctions over detained United States pastor

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President Donald Trump says the United States will impose sanctions on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey over a detained American pastor held on terror and espionage charges. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have called for the pastor's release, saying the terrorism and espionage charges are false.

"He is suffering greatly", the president wrote. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have demanded that Turkey release Brunson or face sanctions.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Brunson's family, called the move Wednesday "a critical first step that we believe will result in the freedom of Pastor Andrew so he can return to the United States and be reunited with his family".

"The government of Turkey continues to make a mockery of justice in its treatment of Pastor Brunson", said Kristina Arriaga, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in response to the ruling.

Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir Turkey
ReutersU.S. pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir Turkey

Pence spoke at the close of a three-day conference in Washington on religious freedom.

Turkey wants the USA to agree to his extradition.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told the country's state-run Anadolu news agency that Trump's rhetoric was "unacceptable".

Brunson, 50, is a Presbyterian pastor who preached in a Turkish church for 23 years.

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Aksoy added, "As regards the Brunson case, necessary information has been provided to our US counterparts on various occasions and it has been clearly expressed that this issue is totally within the competence of the independent Turkish judiciary".

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds him responsible for a failed bid to remove him from office in July 2016, and requests for him to be arrested and extradited have not been granted.

The contours of such a deal as described by prominent Turkish columnist Asli Aydintasbas allegedly involved a swap between Brunson and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the Turkish banker who was sentenced by a Manhattan court to 32 months in prison for his role in busting sanctions on Iran and would serve out the rest of his term in Turkey. The case was adjourned until October 12.

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, N.C., arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey on Wednesday.

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Until now the Turkish official narrative was that Trump, who recognized Turkey's value, was batting for Erdogan while his misguided underlings were doing the opposite.

Brunson is accused of ties to the movement of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who lives in exile in the U.S. and whom Ankara blames for the coup attempt.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill in June prohibiting Turkey from buying F-35 fighter jets because of Brunson's imprisonment and Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense system. Brunson could receive an additional 20 years if he is found guilty of espionage.

Financial markets took the transfer order as a positive, seeing in it the potential for improvement in ties between Ankara and Washington. The two countries, both members of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, were already at loggerheads over the Syrian war.

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'Brunson is an innocent man, there is no credible evidence against him, ' Pence said.