Turkey’s Erdoğan says court, not politicians, will decide US pastor’s fate

Turkey’s Erdoğan says court, not politicians, will decide US pastor’s fate
© Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday that Turkish courts, not politicians, will decide the fate of a U.S. pastor his country is detaining.


The confinement of the pastor, Andrew Brunson, has been a major point of tension between the U.S. and Turkey.

Brunson was arrested in October 2016 on charges of being an American spy and terrorist after serving in the country as a pastor for 23 years.

But Erdoğan said the matter was beyond his power.

"This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges," Erdoğan told Reuters in an interview Tuesday. "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."

"As the president, I don't have the right to order his release. Our judiciary is independent," he said. "Let's wait and see what the court will decide."

To elicit his release, President TrumpDonald TrumpFreedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new free speech site to ban certain curse words Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report MORE slapped Turkey with sanctions that sent its currency tumbling. He announced in August that he will double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports until Brunson is released.

Turkey responded by tariffing U.S. goods and has refused to let Brunson go. 

During his time in prison, Brunson lost 50 pounds and has been confined to a cell with limited human contact for 24 hours a day, according to an opinion piece Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) previously wrote for The Hill.

He has since been moved to house arrest, but the U.S. has said it is not satisfied.

Trump said at the end of August that he was "very disappointed" in Erdoğan for not working to free Brunson, adding that "there will be no concessions."