US welcomes Brunson move to house arrest but says ‘it is not enough’

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Mike Pompeo (photo: AFP)

The US administration on Wednesday welcomed a Turkish court ruling to move American pastor Andrew Brunson from prison to house arrest but said it was not enough, calling on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately.

“We welcome long overdue news that Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest in #Turkey, but it is not enough. We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Wednesday morning.

The İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court decided to allow Brunson, who was jailed in October 2016 on espionage and terror charges, to stay at his home in İzmir but barred him from “abandonment of residence” and also imposed a ban on him leaving the country.

The same court last week ruled to keep Brunson, who faces 35 years, in jail, setting the next hearing for Oct. 12.

The court’s most recent decision came days after six US senators introduced bipartisan legislation to restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey “until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of US citizens.”

According to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations statement, the bill, known as the Turkey International Financial Institutions Act, directs the US executive of the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to oppose future loans, except for humanitarian purposes, to Turkey.

US President Donald Trump on July 18 urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to release Brunson, who has been in prison in Turkey for nearly two years, calling his continued detention a “total disgrace.”

“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!” Trump tweeted.

Erdoğan in September had called on Washington to swap Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US who Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuse of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

Prosecutors accuse Brunson of activities on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the group inspired by Gülen. The Gülen movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.

Brunson, a North Carolina native, has been in custody since October 2016 after he and his wife were detained on immigration violation charges. At the time, the Brunsons were running a small Christian church in İzmir. They had lived in Turkey for 23 years.

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