Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan told Reuters in an interview that the Turkish court, not politicians, will decide the fate of an American pastor whose detention on terrorism charges has hit relations between Ankara and Washington.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he was hopeful Turkey would release evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson this month. The preacher was moved to house arrest in July after being detained for 21 months.
In an interview with Reuters late on Tuesday while he was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings, Erdoğan said any decision on Brunson would be made by the court.
“This is a judicial matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges … There will be another hearing on Oct. 12, and we don’t know what the court will decide, and politicians will have no say in the verdict,” Erdoğan said.
If found guilty, Brunson could be jailed for up to 35 years. He denies the charges.
“As president, I don’t have the right to order his release. Our judiciary is independent. Let’s wait and see what the court will decide,” Erdoğan said.
US President Donald Trump, infuriated by Brunson’s detention, authorized a doubling of duties on aluminum and steel imported from Turkey in August. Turkey retaliated by increasing tariffs on US cars, alcohol and tobacco imports.
The Turkish lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year on concerns over Erdoğan’s grip on monetary policy and the diplomatic dispute between Ankara and Washington.
“The Brunson case is not even closely related to Turkey’s economy. The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary, and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources,” Erdoğan said.