Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he rejects U.S. President Donald Trump’s call to release an American pastor jailed in Turkey.
Erdogan, addressing Turkish Parliament in Ankara on the start of its legislative year, said pastor Andrew Brunson has links to terrorism. He also called the Brunson case a pretext for U.S. sanctions on Turkey.
Turkey has held Brunson for two years claiming he was involved with the group accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in 2016. A Turkish appeals court upheld Brunson’s house arrest in August.
The United States issued sanctions against Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and raised tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum in an effort to free Brunson. Trump has called the charges against him baseless, and Trump’s support of a campaign to free the pastor has been seen as a rallying call for Christian conservatives, particularly evangelicals.
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Brunson will have another court hearing on Oct. 12.
Erdogan said the United States, “which has been engaging in what amounts to a trade war with China, the European Union and many other countries has lost even more credibility as a result of the extra measures it imposes on Turkey.”
“Turkey’s situation sets a bad precedent for the United States, so much so that no country in the world can view the future of its relations with the United States with confidence,” he added. “We are determined to fight within the boundaries of diplomacy and law with this twisted understanding that imposes sanctions on our country using a pastor who is on trial for his dark links with terrorist organizations as an excuse.”
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Erdogan said the Turkish lira, which hit a record low in August after the sanctions, has rebounded and the “The Turkish economy is sufficiently resilient to withstand such threats and attacks.”
He said, though, that Turkey will continue to work with the European Union.
“We could not remain silent in the face of the injustice in our EU membership bid process and the double standards,” he said. “Now we are slowly leaving this troublesome period with Europe behind.”