Trump calls Turkey’s jailing of U.S. pastor a “hostage” taking

U.S. President Donald Trump said a Turkish court’s decision to keep U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson in jail was a total disgrace and called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to intervene to secure his release. 

“A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

The four senior members of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe have each released statements condemning the continued jailing of Brunson.

“The cruelty of today’s decision is astonishing,” said one of the commission’s co-chairmen, Senator Roger Wicker.

“By extending Pastor Brunson’s indefinite detention and setting his next trial date for mid-October, the Turkish government has declared its intention to keep this innocent man in jail past the two-year anniversary of his arrest without conviction or any credible evidence against him. There is no room in NATO for hostage-taking. Pastor Brunson should be freed immediately.”

If Brunson were not released immediately, co-chairman Chris Smith said, “this cruel abuse of a U.S. citizen should have serious consequences for our country’s relationship with the Turkish government.”

Brunson has been jailed since late 2016 on charges of supporting both the outlawed Islamist Fethullah Gülen movement and left-wing Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) armed insurgents.

Turkey’s imprisonment of Brunson has soured relations with the United States and the U.S. Senate last month approved blocking the sale of F-35 advanced fighter jets to Turkey due to Brunson’s detention and Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems.

“The legal process is proceeding in accordance with the rule of law. There is a legal process going on and Turkey is a country ruled according to the rule of law,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in response to Trump’s comments, Gazete Duvar reported

Aksoy also said Turkey had urged the United States not to delay issues related to the Gülen movement, which the government blames for the 2016 coup attempt.

He said Turkey’s demand for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gülen, the U.S. conviction of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, judicial cooperation between the two countries and imprisoned U.S. citizens in Turkey were discussed in a working group meeting between officials of the two countries on July 13.