WASHINGTON, D.C. – A pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina that has been imprisoned and facing trumped up charges in Turkey was denied release Wednesday and it could lead to the Trump administration applying sanctions to the increasingly belligerent NATO ally. Andrew Brunson had been serving as a missionary in Turkey since 1993 when he was detained and accused of espionage in late 2016 amid the unforgiving blow back from Turkish leader and authoritarian Recep Erdogan after a failed coup attempt.
“His attorney had said before Wednesday’s proceedings that Brunson might be released, and at least one Turkish journalist suggested Turkey might drop charges altogether to remove a sticking point in relations with the United States.
The U.S. Senate has moved to link Brunson’s fate to delivery of fighter jets to Turkey. The Trump administration has pushed for Brunson’s release, but has also opposed congressional efforts to block the jet sales.
At the end of the third hearing in Brunson’s trial, the court inside a prison complex in the town of Aliaga in western Turkey rejected Brunson’s lawyer’s request that he be freed pending the outcome of the trial.”
State lawmakers passed resolutions encouraging the United States to do everything in their power to secure his release, and his detention has been one of many points of contention between Turkey and the United States recently.
Now President Donald Trump is promising sanctions if Turkey doesn’t release him.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Brunson is one of hundreds of thousands of people purged or arrested by way of State of Emergency Powers employed by Erodgan after the 2016 failed coup attempt. All of those have been accused of supporting the coup, which has been used as an excuse for Erdogan to expand his powers leading up to recent elections. Erdogan won the snap presidential elections in which the nation’s political structure switched to a more powerful presidential system from a parliamentary system, essentially cementing Erodgan as Turkey’s sultan.
The sanctions would be particularly painful for Turkey at the moment, as they are wrestling with double digit inflation and economic troubles. Beyond Brunson, the increasingly Islamist (vice secular) Turkey under Erdogan has complicated the war in Syria, supported ISIS for years, and recently announced it would ignore U.S. imposed oil sanctions on Iran and continue to import the Islamist Republic’s only notable export beside weapons and terrorism.
Hopefully the tough stance by the Trump administration will lead to Brunson’s safe return home to the Old North State.