Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hinted that imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson could be released from Turkish custody within a matter of days.
Brunson has been held for almost two years trumped-up on wide-ranging charges of conspiring to overthrow the Turkish government. Despite being moved to house arrest in July after increasing pressure from the US government, the pastor remains under the control of the authorities.
Speaking to reporters in New York Monday, Pompeo, who has led a sustained diplomatic effort to have the pastor released, declared that Brunson “should have been released last month,” and that he expects “he could be released this month,” according to the Financial Times.
“He should be released today in fact,” Pompeo continued. “We have talked to the Turks. They know the expectations.”
The Secretary of State said that “Pastor Brunson and the other U.S. persons that are being held by Turkey all need to be released by Turkey.”
“That needs to be done immediately,” he added.
But relations are not good between the United States and Turkey, with Brunson becoming caught up in a protracted political feud. At the beginning of August, the U.S. Treasury slapped hefty economic sanctions upon two Turkish officials who were largely responsible for the jailing of an American missionary. The Turkish government, however, have refused to budge on the matter.
“This is a judiciary matter,” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters yesterday. “Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges … On Oct. 12 there will be another hearing and we don’t know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict.”
“I don’t have the right to order his release,” Erdogan added. “Our judiciary is independent. Let’s wait and see what the court will decide.”
Despite the hefty economic sanctions causing the Turkish Lira to drop significantly in value against the dollar, Erdogan insisted that the diplomatic dispute between the two nations is not having an adverse effect on his nation’s economy. “The Brunson case is not even closely related to Turkey’s economy. The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources,” the President declared.
Despite the mounting tensions, Trump and Erdogan reportedly shook hands backstage at the United Nations meeting held in New York yesterday, according to Bloomberg.
There is no doubt, however, that the US government will continue to put pressure on Turkey to release pastor Brunson as swiftly as possible.