BFF-76 Turkey court rejects appeal for US pastor’s release

ZCZC

BFF-76

TURKEY-US-JUSTICE-RIGHTS-DIPLOMACY

Turkey court rejects appeal for US pastor’s release

ANKARA, July 31, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A Turkish court on Tuesday rejected an
appeal to release from house arrest a US pastor whose detention on terror-
related charges has strained relations between NATO allies Ankara and
Washington.

The court in the Aegean region of Izmir rejected an appeal by the lawyer
for Andrew Brunson, who ran a Protestant church, to have him released from
house arrest and have his travel ban removed, state-run Anadolu news agency
said.

The court had last week ordered that Brunson, who had spent almost two
years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016, be moved from jail
to house arrest at his home in Izmir.

But the move stoked tensions rather than defusing the crisis, with US media
reports accusing Turkey of reneging on a deal to free him, which Ankara has
denied.

Last week US President Donald Trump threatened to impose “large sanctions”
on Turkey if the pastor was not freed, following similar warnings from his
Vice President Mike Pence.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that sanction threats
would not force Ankara to take a “step back”, in comments reported on Sunday.

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin later said Turkey would not give into
threats. “It is not possible to accept in any way threatening language
against Turkey,” Kalim told reporters in Ankara after a cabinet meeting.

– ‘International project’ –

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been tense over
multiple issues including American support for a Syrian Kurdish militia who
Turkey claims are terrorists as well as the failure to extradite US-based
Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara accuses Gulen of organising the July 2016 failed coup, claims which
he denies.

Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out
activities on behalf of two organisations Turkey deems to be terror groups:
the Gulen movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Brunson denies the charges while US officials have repeatedly stressed that
Brunson is innocent. Trump has previously called the pastor a “fine
gentleman”.

Brunson is one of several American nationals caught up in the crackdown
after the attempted putsch two years ago.

NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual national, was jailed for seven-and-a-
half years in February for being a member of Gulen’s movement. Two employees
from American missions in Turkey remain in custody and another under house
arrest.

The next hearing in Brunson’s trial is on October 12.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will meet US Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo during this week’s meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN).

Washington in June threatened to block the delivery of F-35 stealth jets to
Turkey if Ankara purchased Russia’s S-400 air defence system, but Erdogan has
said Turkey would seek international arbitration if the delivery did not go
through.

“This is an international project with several partners. This is not a
project executed by the United States alone,” Kalin said, adding that Turkey
was a partner.

He also said that Ankara had legal ways to challenge any block on the
delivery because there were agreements in place.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2306 hrs