Donald Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over U.S. pastor's detention

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The Trump administration is threatening sanctions against Turkey if the us ally does not release an American pastor being held there on accusations of terror and espionage.

American pastor Andrew Brunson is being held in Turkey on accusations of terror and espionage.In a tweet, President Trump called Brunson "a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being".

Trump said Brunson "is suffering greatly".

"If Turkey does not take immediate actions to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the U.S. will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free", Pence said at a State Department ministerial meeting to advance religious freedom.

Vice President Mike Pence had also threatened economic sanctions earlier, telling a conference on religious freedom that the White House will respond if Turkey did not take "immediate action".

The announcement that Brunson would be moved from prison to house arrest comes as the State Department hosts a Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom.

In this photo taken on July 18, 2018, a Turkish soldier stands guard at the entrance of the Aliaga court and prison complex, during the trial of United States pastor Andrew Brunson, held on charges of aiding terror groups, in Aliaga, north of Izmir.

Philip Kosnett, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Ankara, who attended all three hearings, said last week he did not believe "there is any indication that pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity".

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Interested in Turkey? Add Turkey as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Turkey news, video, and analysis from ABC News. Pompeo said the department would provide $17 million for demining efforts in Nineveh, an area of Iraq historically home many of Iraq's religious minorities. The Turkish government accused him of not only being involved in the coup, but of colluding with Kurdish militants.

Ties between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey and the United States have been strained by other issues. Gulen has denied any role in the coup attempt, in which 250 people were killed.

The president blamed Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for organizing the coup and has demanded that the United States extradite Gulen, who now lives in the United States.

On July 18, the court rejected his defense lawyers' pleas to let him go and remanded Brunson in custody pending a fourth hearing on October 12. He told Al-Monitor, "I highly doubt that Washington would agree to swap Pastor Brunson with any convicted felon in the United States, especially with an individual guilty of conspiracy to evade Iran sanctions".

Brunson was moved from jail to house arrest on Wednesday, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move was "not enough".

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a 35-year jail term for Brunson. He is the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation. "I forgive those who lie and bear false witness against me".

Brunson's detention has been sticking point in relations between Ankara and Washington, which have suffered due to disagreements over USA policy in Syria and court cases targeting Turks and Americans in both countries.