Turkey’s President Erdogan Claims Washington Making An ‘Unlawful Demand’ In Seeking Release Of American Pastor

(Umit Bektas/REUTERS)

Jon Brown Associate Editor
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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained defiant when recently asked about Washington’s continued demands to free American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Despite heavy economic sanctions by the U.S. on Turkey for their treatment of Brunson, Erdogan was quoted by Hurriyet Daily News on Wednesday as saying that Turkey “will not fulfill any unlawful demand by Washington for the release of the pastor.” He maintained that “Turkey upholds the rule of law and no unlawful demand can be considered.”

Andrew Brunson was among the tens of thousands arrested in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup attempt against Erdogan in July 2016. Erdogan has blamed the coup on the influence of Fethullah Gulen, an imam who has been living under asylum in Pennsylvania for nearly 20 years. He has requested the U.S. to extradite Gulen back to Turkey.

Ankara has accused Brunson of being aligned with Gulen, a charge which Brunson has denied. Brunson was detained in October 2016, and potentially faces up to 35 years in jail on charges of spying and insurgency. He was moved to house arrest on July 25, with another court hearing scheduled on Oct. 12. Repeated appeals since then have been rejected.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to see an end to Brunson’s imprisonment, an issue which he recently told Bloomberg is “dear to my heart.” According to a report by al Jazeera last week, Brunson’s lawyer in Turkey plans to appeal his case to the European Court of Human Rights if he is not released soon.