Turkey cannot fulfill “unlawful requests” regarding American pastor Andrew Brunson’s ongoing case, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing the Hürriyet newspaper.
The case of Brunson, currently standing trial in Turkey, lies at the heart of a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Washington that has prompted a crash of the Turkish lira.
Brunson is under house arrest after being kept in pre-trial detention in an İzmir prison for almost two years on terrorism and espionage charges.
Speaking to reporters on board his plane returning from a visit to Kyrgyzstan, Erdoğan said Turkey observed the rule of law and that the United States would not be able to make progress in the case by using threats, according to Hürriyet.
Prosecutors accuse Brunson of activities on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Gülen movement, which is alleged by the Turkish government to have orchestrated a failed coup in 2016, an accusation strongly denied by the movement.
The relations between Turkey and the US became even more strained following the local court’s decision to put Brunson under house arrest. US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if Brunson were not freed.
The US slapped sanctions on two Turkish government ministers last month, and Turkey responded by sanctioning two US Cabinet secretaries. When Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, Erdoğan retaliated with tariffs on alcohol, cars and tobacco and the threat of a boycott on American electronics.