Trump Urges Erdogan to Do Something For Release of Jailed US Pastor
U.S. President Donald J. Trump has called on his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to do something for the release of jailed U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson after a court refused to free him on Wednesday. Trump called the court verdict a “total disgrace.”
In another hearing yesterday, the Turkish court in the western province of Izmir refused to release U.S. Pastor Brunson who has been imprisoned pending trial for 19 months over charges of espionage and terrorism.
The court ruling came despite Brunson’s lawyer hinted that the pastor would be released this time.
The ongoing imprisonment of the U.S. pastor remains a key point of contention and discord between Turkey and the U.S.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump expressed strong criticism on his Twitter account.
A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018
Trump said Pastor Brunson “has been held hostage far too long.” His description of the pastor’s imprisonment as “being held hostage” is the first time an acknowledgment of a policy what Western diplomats and experts say “hostage policy” by Ankara.
The U.S. president insisted that the pastor has done nothing wrong.
Pastor Brunson faces charges of military espionage on behalf of foreign countries, abetting outlawed Kurdish militants and membership in a Muslim civil society group accused by the Turkish government of organizing a failed coup in July 2016.
The Wednesday decision caused a sense of disappointment on the part of the U.S. officials. Philip Kosnett, the U.S. charge d’affaires in Turkey, expressed his dismay and said he was disappointed.
“I have the indictment, I have attended three hearings, I don’t believe there is any indication that Pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity,” he said, according to Washington Post.
The U.S. State Department also showed a reaction to the decision. “We have seen no credible evidence that Mr. Brunson is guilty of these crimes. The case against him is built on anonymous accusations and speculation,” a State Department official told Globe Post Turkey.
“We strongly believe that he is innocent, and we call on the Turkish government to resolve his case in a timely, transparent, and fair manner.”
The decision came two weeks after two U.S. senators visited President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara in a bid to secure the release of the pastor.