American pastor detained in Turkey moved to house arrest

Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to purchase a collection of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defences

American pastor Andrew Brunson is being held in Turkey on accusations of terror and espionage.In a tweet, President Trump called Brunson "a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being".

Trump said Brunson "is suffering greatly".

"Brunson is an innocent man, there is no credible evidence against him", Pence said.

"We will continue working until Andrew Brunson is a free man and there is justice for him and for other unjustly detained American citizens and local Turkish employees of the United States diplomatic mission", Kosnett said, referring to additional concerns of Washington.

Shortly before Trump's announcement, Vice President Mike Pence threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if the country continues to detain Andrew Brunson, the American pastor from North Carolina who is at the epicenter of tensions between Washington and Ankara.

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Mehmet Haka Atilla was convicted after well-connected Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, arrested in the United States in 2016, became a government witness and admitted involvement in a multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert USA economic sanctions against Iran.

He blames Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen for the attempt, but Mr Gulen denies any involvement. The Turkish government has not dropped the charges, and he still faces the possibility of spending up to 35 years in prison.

"The U.S. administration, which has never taken a step against FETO - should know that it can not get any result by threatening Turkey using a matter, which is being handled by the independent Turkish judiciary, as an excuse".

Mevlut Cavusoglu has further strained tensions between the US and Turkey
Mevlut Cavusoglu has further strained tensions between the US and Turkey

Brunson was just one of 20 Americans charged in relation to that coup, The New York Times reports. Perkins said President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had been pushing for action, as well as USCIRF.

The same court on July 18 ordered that Brunson remain imprisoned until an October 12 hearing.

"We recognize that the Iranian people enjoy few, if any, freedoms", said Pence, "least of all the freedom of religion".

Brunson was arrested during this time on what his supporters say are fabricated charges. He insisted that Brunson's case is under Turkey's jurisdiction as a sovereign state. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!

Brunson still faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two groups Turkey deems terrorist organisations.

The news is being praised by leading evangelical Christians, who form a key part of Trump's base and have long advocated for increased protections on religious freedom in the USA and overseas.

Most recently, the two locked horns after Turkey said it would not be affecting its business with Iran, just because the USA wanted to enforce sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

At the end of a recent hearing, the court inside a prison complex in western Turkey rejected Brunson's lawyer's request that he be freed pending the outcome of the trial.

Daily Sabah Washington correspondent Ragip Soylu wrote on Thursday afternoon that President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appear to have held a "rough" telephone conversation on Thursday morning.

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