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Turkish court rejects U.S. pastor Brunson's appeal for release

17 August, 2018, 19:54 | Author: Lawrence Cooper
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Turkey's currency remains steady against the dollar despite an apparent threat of possible new sanctions by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Brunson's detention since October 2016 on terror-related charges has soured relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, sending the Turkish lira into a tailspin.

Trump prefaced Mnuchin's remarks by saying that Turkey had not been a very good friend. "They can't take our people".

Brunson, who attended Wheaton College, has lived in Turkey for more than two decades as pastor of a small local church. His case now lies at the heart of a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the United States that has prompted a crash of Turkey's lira currency. Investors, already anxious about Turkey's economy, were irked by a diplomatic and trade dispute with the United States over the continued detention of an American pastor Andrew Brunson on espionage and terror-related charges.

The United States had warned Turkey on Thursday to expect more economic sanctions unless it handed over Mr Brunson, who has been held for two years on security-related charges.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that solving the rift with the U.S. is not hard. The two countries already disagree over US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, as well as a plan by Turkey to buy Russian missiles.

A Turkish court has rejected an appeal to release American Christian pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, broadcaster Haberturk said on Friday. It upheld a lower court's decision against the lifting of a travel ban on Brunson.

US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin assured Mr Trump at a Cabinet meeting that sanctions were ready to be put in place if Mr Brunson was not freed.

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"We have responded to the measures the United States has taken, and will continue to do so based on our global trade law rights and in accordance to World Trade Organization rules", said the minister, Ruhsar Pekcan.

Last week, President Trump authorized doubling tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum which has further strained economic tensions with Turkey. Turkey retaliated with tariffs on some USA imports and said it would boycott US electronic goods.

"I call out to those in the United States". Brunson is accused of being linked to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who Ankara has said was the mastermind behind the botched coup attempt in July 2016. Erdogan previously suggested a swap in which Brunson is released in exchange for Gulen, though USA officials have said Turkey must present convincing evidence for any extradition proceeding to be considered.

"We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!" Trump tweeted on Thursday. "They have a great Christian pastor there".

The court ruled that Andrew Brunson would remain under house arrest, his lawyer Cem Halavurt said, adding that he would appeal again in 15 days.

The 50-year-old pastor and the US government vehemently deny those charges.

He also played down U.S. tariffs on imports of Turkish metals.

Turkey, in turn, criticized the prosecution in the USA of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a top official at Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank who was convicted of helping Iran avoid US sanctions.

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