The Trump administration is putting pressure on Turkey to release an American Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from house arrest, and there was some indication this week of movement toward resolving the issue soon.
Brunson is accused by the Turkish government of participating in the failed coup attempt of 2016, as well as aiding a militant group labeled by Ankara as a terrorist organization.
According to Jay Sekulow, a lawyer who represents both US President Donald Trump and Brunson, the American citizen’s full release and return to the US could happen within days.
“[The transfer to house arrest] is the first step towards sending him back to the United States. That could happen eminently,” Sekulow said in a radio interview. “Usually takes a couple of days to do it. Could take as much as a week, depending,” he said, suggesting a high level of confidence that Turkey had already agreed to release Brunson.
Despite the apparent breakthrough, Trump issued a stern warning to Ankara on Thursday, threatening to impose “large sanctions” if Brunson is not released.
The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Turkey expressed defiance in response to Trump’s threat, with the country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, indicating that Ankara wouldn’t be swayed in how they plan to deal with Brunson’s case. “Noone dictates Turkey,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.
Noone dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) July 26, 2018
US lawmakers have previously cited the detention as one reason not to transfer F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, a process that Congress agreed to place on hold earlier this week.