The staunchly pro-government Yeni Şafak daily has called on Turkish judicial authorities to reimprison an American Christian pastor in Turkey who was released from jail into house arrest this week, due to “threatening” statements from top US officials.
On July 25 a Turkish court released from pretrial detention American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed in October 2016 on espionage and terror charges, putting him under house arrest due to “health problems.”
The İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court decided to allow Brunson to live at his home in İzmir but barred him from “abandonment of residence” and also imposed a ban on him leaving the country.
“While the other day’s release from jail and house arrest of Pastor Brunson, who is standing trial for committing crimes on behalf of FETÖ [a derogatory term used to refer to the Gülen movement] and the PKK [terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party) have attracted public criticism, the threats from the US are the straw that broke the camel’s back. The best answer to the remarks of [US President Donald] Trump, who said ‘large sanctions’ will be imposed on Turkey, would be to reimprison Brunson like he deserves,” Yeni Şafak wrote in its lead story on Friday.
“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. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!” US President Trump tweeted on Thursday morning, following up on a tweet by Vice President Mike Pence that said, “If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.”
Trump on July 18 urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to release Brunson, 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 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.