U.S. to impose sanctions on Turkey over detained pastor

Detained American Pastor in Turkey to Be Moved From Jail to House Arrest

"The Turkish government has deprived this innocent man of his due process rights and liberty for too long, and it must completely release him", said Kristina Arriaga, USCIRF's vice chairman.

Turkey on Wednesday moved from jail to house arrest an American pastor who has spent nearly two years imprisoned on terror-related charges, in a controversial case that has ratcheted up tensions with the United States.

USCRIF annually issues a country-by-country, religious-freedom report to the State Department, which includes recommendations to the secretary of state and president for penalties against the worst violators. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have demanded that Turkey release Brunson or face sanctions.

Tweeting from aboard Air Force One, Trump said: "The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously linked Brunson's return to the USA to the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric Turkey's government holds responsible for the failed July 2016 military coup.

Philip Kosnett, the USA charge d'affaires in Ankara, who attended all three hearings, said last week he did not believe "there is any indication that pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity". He promised her that he and Trump would continue to fight for Brunson's release. "While he is out of jail he is still not free", said the vice president.

"I know that his faith will sustain him, but it shouldn't have to". "But it shouldn't have to".

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Brunson has denied the charges, calling them "shameful and disgusting". The Turkish government finally indicted him.

This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation that would impose financial penalties on Turkey until the government ends the detention of Brunson and other USA citizens.

Pence's announcement of possible sanctions was delivered at a conference on religious freedom in Washington.

Brunson's move to house arrest comes amid growing tensions between the USA and its fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey. Pence called that move a "welcome first step" but "not good enough", and called on "believers" to pray for Brunson's release.

As recently as last week, a Turkish court denied Brunson's release, with President Trump slamming the decision as "a total disgrace".

The news is being praised by leading evangelical Christians, who form a key part of Trump's base and have long advocated for increased protections on religious freedom in the US and overseas. Pence tweeted that he had talked by phone with the evangelical pastor from North Carolina.

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