Turkey's Erdoğan accuses detained US pastor of having 'dark links with terror'

Turkey's Erdoğan accuses detained US pastor of having 'dark links with terror'
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday accused American pastor Andrew Brunson of having "dark links with terror," indicating he is not backing down from Brunson's detainment.

Erdoğan, in a speech to the Turkish parliament, said he intends to push back against President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE's campaign for Brunson's release, saying he will resist "this crooked understanding, which imposes sanctions using the excuse of a pastor who is tried due to his dark links with terror organizations," according to Reuters.

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The U.S. in recent months has ramped up pressure on Turkey to release Brunson by imposing sanctions and threatening tariffs against Turkey.

Trump has accused Turkey of holding Brunson hostage, using the pastor's arrest as a rallying call among Christian conservatives, particularly evangelicals.

Trump has called the charges against Brunson baseless.

Turkey has held Brunson for two years after alleging that he aided the group accused of orchestrating the country's failed July 2016 military coup.

A Turkish appeals court in August upheld Brunson’s house arrest.

“We are deeply saddened by the current U.S. government, a strategic partner, targeting our country without any logical, political and strategic consistency,” Erdoğan said Monday.

The Turkish lira hit a record low in August over the U.S. tariffs, but Erdoğan said Monday that the currency's value has steadily improved since then.

“Our economy started rebalancing with measures we have taken, meetings we have realized and programs we have developed,” he said, according to Reuters.

The Turkish leader said he hopes relations with the U.S. will improve, while acknowledging that mutual understanding "is not at the desired level."

Erdoğan said at the end of September that Turkish courts, not politicians, will decide Brunson's fate.

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

Trump at the end of August said he was "very disappointed" in Erdoğan for failing to free Brunson, adding that "there will be no concessions."