More U.S. sanctions on the way unless Ankara works magic by next Brunson hearing - columnist

If Ankara fails to pull a rabbit out of the hat in less than two weeks, before the next hearing in the trial of a U.S. pastor at the centre of Washington-Ankara tensions, then no one can stop U.S. President Donald Trump signing new sanctions against Turkey, journalist Cansu Çamlıbel wrote in the Hürriyet Daily News.

Pastor Andrew Brunson is on trial for aiding and abetting both the Fethullah Gülen movement, an Islamist movement that Turkey blames for masterminding a 2016 coup attempt, and Kurdish armed rebels. Brunson, who denies the charges, faces up to 35 years behind bars. The Trump administration has repeatedly called for his release, sanctioning Turkish ministers and increasing metals tariffs in response to Turkey’s refusal to free him. 

At the United Nations General Assembly last week, U.S. officials insisted that if President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was not going to come up with a commitment on Brunson’s release, there would be no point in bringing two presidents together in a one-on-one meeting, Çamlıbel said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a press conference at the margins of the general assembly, said the United States expected Turkey to free Brunson from house arrest at the pastor’s next court hearing on Oct. 12.

“My impression is that as long as Washington tries to keep Ankara on edge with coercive public declarations, pastor Brunson’s release would be in further jeopardy. I heard there are people in government circles who not only oppose Brunson’s release, but advocate for his return to jail,’’ the columnist said.

Meanwhile, there are signs that Turkey’s failure to release Brunson may result in increased sanctions, this time targeting the Turkish business community, said Çamlıbel.