Erdoğan says U.S. pastor’s fate to be decided by Turkish court

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the fate of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson will be decided by the country’s courts, not its politicians.

Brunson will appear before a judge on Oct. 12 and Erdoğan said he had no right to meet a U.S. demand and order his release.

“This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges”, Erdoğan said in an interview with Reuters. “We don’t know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that he was hopeful Turkey would release Brunson this month. He was placed under house arrest in July after being jailed awaiting trial for almost two years.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers on Aug. 1 and then doubled duties on steel imported from Turkey later in the month. The Turkish lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year on concerns over Erdoğan’s economic policies and the dispute between Ankara and Washington.

Erdoğan said the Brunson case had no bearing on Turkey’s economy, where problems had been blown out of proportion.

“The Brunson case is not even closely related,” he said. “The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources.”

Erdoğan repeated his opposition to higher interest rates, saying they “primarily scare away investors”. A decision by the central bank on Sept. 13 to raise rates 625 basis points to 24 percent proved it was autonomous, he said.

“It shows the central bank is independent. As the president, I am against high interest rates and I am repeating my stance here again,” he said.