Erdoğan says Turkey will not fulfill ‘unlawful requests’ in pastor Brunson case

American Pastor Andrew Brunson.

Turkey cannot fulfill “unlawful requests” regarding American pastor Andrew Brunson’s ongoing case, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing the pro-government Hürriyet newspaper.

The case of Brunson, currently standing trial in Turkey, lies at the heart of a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Washington that has prompted a crash of the Turkish lira.

Brunson is under house arrest after being kept in pre-trial detention in an İzmir prison for almost two years on terrorism and espionage charges.

Speaking to reporters on board his plane returning from a visit to Kyrgyzstan, Erdoğan said Turkey observed the rule of law and that the United States would not be able to make progress in the case by using threats, according to Hürriyet.

Meanwhile, Berkant Karakaya, the Turkish prosecutor responsible for drafting Brunson’s indictment, has been transferred from the terrorism bureau to cybercrimes, according to a report by online news outlet Artı Gerçek on Tuesday.

Prosecutors accuse Brunson of activities on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Gülen movement, which is alleged by the Turkish government to have orchestrated a failed coup in 2016, an accusation strongly denied by the movement.

Among the outlandish claims in the indictment is the allegation that Brunson helped plan incidents in June 2013 that grew from a small environmental demonstration over the fate of Gezi Park in central İstanbul into nationwide protests.

Brunson is also accused of collaborating with a secret cabal of Mormon English teachers with influential contacts in the US military and intelligence agencies. The Mormon teachers are said to share a unique identifying feature: each has a different finger missing.

Other evidence includes an inquiry made by Brunson on how to establish churches in Turkey and the claim that the pastor had been printing Bibles in Kurdish. Neither of these activities is a crime according to Turkish law.

Finally, an oft-cited example of evidence included in the indictment against Brunson is a message he received from his daughter, which included a link to a video on the traditional Arab dish of maqluba. The indictment argues that this food is favored by the Gülen movement.

After a deal to release Brunson reportedly broke down in July, the United States placed sanctions on the Turkish interior and justice ministers, arguing that they played a role in his wrongful arrest and imprisonment. The United States has adopted a hard line on the issue, demanding the pastor and the other US citizens and employees’ unconditional release.

The US and Turkish top diplomats announced after a meeting in Washington on Tuesday that conversations were ongoing to “resolve” the Brunson issue.

The relations between Turkey and the US became even more strained following the local court’s decision to put Brunson under house arrest. US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if Brunson were not freed.

The US slapped sanctions on two Turkish government ministers last month, and Turkey responded by sanctioning two US Cabinet secretaries. When Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, Erdoğan retaliated with tariffs on alcohol, cars and tobacco and the threat of a boycott on American electronics. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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