WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday blasted Turkey over its detention of an American Christian pastor and threatened Ankara with U.S. sanctions unless the man was freed.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and gives remarks at their headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
“To President (Tayyip) Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.
“If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free,” Pence said on behalf of President Donald Trump at an event hosted by the U.S. State Department.
On Wednesday, a court in Turkey ruled that Brunson, who has been detained for the last 21 months, should be transferred to house arrest.
Brunson, who is from North Carolina and has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, has been accused of helping the group which Ankara says was behind a failed military coup in 2016. He has denied the charges but faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.
Reporting by Tim Ahmann, Steve Holland, and Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama