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article imageTurkey lawyer appeals to court to release US pastor

By AFP     Jul 30, 2018 in World

The Turkish lawyer for a US pastor at the centre of a diplomatic row between NATO allies Ankara and Washington on Monday appealed to a court for his client's release.

Andrew Brunson, who ran a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was moved to house arrest last week after nearly two years in prison on terror-related charges.

But his lawyer Cem Halavurt told AFP that he had submitted an appeal for Brunson's "house arrest and the ban on him leaving the country to be lifted".

The court must give a response within three days, Halavurt added. The next hearing in Brunson's trial is only on October 12.

The moving of Brunson from jail to house arrest last week stoked tensions rather than defusing the crisis with US media reports accusing Turkey of reneging on a deal to free him, which Ankara has denied.

US President Donald Trump then threatened to impose "large sanctions" on Turkey if the pastor was not freed, echoing comments from his Vice President Mike Pence.

"He is suffering greatly," Trump on Thursday said of the 50-year-old pastor. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!"

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the threats and said sanctions would not force Ankara to take a "step back".

"The US should not forget that it could lose a strong and sincere partner like Turkey if it does not change its attitude," Erdogan was quoted as saying in Turkish media on Sunday.

Turkey's National Security Council, which Erdogan heads, issued a statement late Monday criticising as "inacceptable" what it said was "threatening language" from the United States.

Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two groups Turkey deems to be terror groups, namely, the movement of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says was behind a 2016 failed coup and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Singapore during this week's meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a Turkish official told AFP.

Ties between Ankara and Washington are already tense over US support for a Syrian Kurdish militia which Ankara says is linked to the PKK as well as the failure to extradite Gulen.

Turkey has also angered the US by imprisoning two Turkish employees of American consulates in the country and holding another under house arrest on terror-related charges, which Washington has strongly rejected.

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