US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends the 51st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – US Ministerial Meeting in Singapore on August 3, 2018. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on Turkey to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested by Turkish authorities in 2016 on charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization.
Pompeo made the demand in a press conference in Singapore on Friday before meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“Brunson needs to come home, as do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government. It’s pretty straightforward,” Pompeo said, according to NBC News. “Pastor Brunson is an innocent pastor and they need to let him return to the United States.”
“We are going to work to see if we can find a way forward; I am hopeful that we can,” Pompeo said.
Brunson’s case has increased tensions between Turkey and the United States. Late last month, US President Donald Trumpwrote on Twitter that his country “will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson.”
Fifty-year-old Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two groups, which Turkey considers to be terror organizations.
One is led by US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for masterminding the failed 2016 coup against the Turkish government. Gulen denies the claim.
The other is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting a hugely-deadly separatist war against Turkey for decades.
Brunson, who used to run a Protestant church in the city of Izmir in western Turkey, was recently moved to house arrest, but Washington said that was not enough.
On Wednesday, the White Houseannouncedthat it was imposing sanctions on Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called Brunson’s detention “unjust” and “unacceptable.”
Turkey on Friday vowed to retaliate against the sanctions. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara was preparing to respond to Washington in equal measures.
This article provided by NewsEdge.