Trump: US to hit NATO-ally Turkey over detained pastor
President Donald Trump declared on Thursday the United States will impose sanctions on Turkey, a crucial NATO ally, in retaliation for the detention of an American pastor on terror and espionage charges.
Turkey’s response was harsh and dismissive, calling his words “unacceptable” and a “cheap threat.”
Trump’s promise of unspecified punishing action marks the latest deterioration in relations between Turkey and the U.S. as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers expand two years after a failed coup against his government.
Trump also has praised his counterpart, saying Erdogan’s leadership is “getting very high marks.”
The U.S has long depended on a key air base in Turkey’s south, most recently to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State group.
Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson was first detained by Turkish authorities in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup. On Wednesday, he was let out of jail after 11/2 years, transferred to house arrest because of “health problems,” according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency.
Trump said that was insufficient. “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The announcement of sanctions – though no details of how or when – came as the State Department was having a three-day event promoting religious freedom.
Brunson’s case has become a cause for conservative Christians who form an important part of Trump’s political base.
Turkey responded that Brunson’s detention falls within the jurisdiction of its independent judiciary. “Rule of law is for everyone; no exception,” said Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, also via Twitter.