US pastor Andrew Brunson, seen here escorted by Turkish plainclothes police officers as he arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, was moved from prison to house arrest on July 25, 2018
United Nations (United States) (AFP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday he was hopeful Turkey would release this month an American pastor whose detention has rocked relations between the NATO partners.
“Yes, he could be released this month. He should have been released last month — and he should be released today, in fact,” the top US diplomat told reporters in New York where he is taking part in the UN General Assembly.
Pompeo reiterated that the United States considers Andrew Brunson, who has been detained for nearly two years on terror charges, to be “wrongfully” held.
“Pastor Brunson and the other US persons that are being held by Turkey all need to be released by Turkey and that needs to be done immediately,” Pompeo said.
Relations between the United States and Turkey have been shaken and the Turkish lira has taken a beating over Brunson.
President Donald Trump said he has doubled tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel over Brunson’s detention, with Ankara responding in kind.
Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for a quarter-century, belongs to an evangelical Protestant church and has become a cause celebre for conservative US Christians, a core base for Trump.
Turkey detained him on allegations of assisting groups branded as terrorist as part of a sweeping crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following a failed coup against him.
Erdogan had suggested making a deal for Brunson’s release, such as trading him for Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish pastor whom the Turkish leader accuses of backing the coup.
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