Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over detained pastor

Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over detained pastor
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President TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE on Thursday threatened to impose economic sanctions on Turkey over its refusal to release an American pastor that has been detained in the country for more than year.

Trump tweeted Thursday that he’d hit Turkey with “large” penalties for detaining Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor who has been imprisoned in the country over charges of espionage and terrorism.

“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”

The Treasury Department, which administers financial sanctions, has not announced new penalties for Turkey over Brunson’s detainment. Trump did not specify when further sanctions on Turkey would be imposed or announced.

Turkey's foreign minister responded forcefully on Twitter to Trump's threat:

Brunson worked in Turkey for 23 years as a pastor before he was detained more than a year ago for an alleged connection to a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan in 2016. 

Brunson was accused of aiding the opposition Kurdistan Workers’ Party and working with Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric who Erdogan claims orchestrated the failed coup. The Turkish government released Brunson from prison this week but has forced him to stay under house arrest.

Trump’s threat came moments after Vice President Pence said the administration would impose sanctions on Turkey if Brunson was not released.

"While he is out of jail he is still not free," Pence said, addressing a conference on religious freedom.

"And to President Erdoğan 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," Pence continued.

Lawmakers have also called on Turkey to release Brunson, and the final version of Congress's fiscal 2019 defense bill included a provision demanding Turkey “to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizens including Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge,” a scientist imprisoned in Turkey.

Updated at 1:08 p.m.