Turkish court rejects US pastor Brunson’s appeal for release for second time

American Pastor Andrew Brunson.

A Turkish court in İzmir province has rejected an appeal for US pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from house arrest during his trial on terrorism charges.

Brunson’s lawyer, İsmail Cem Halavurt, filed the demand on Tuesday, around a week after his previous appeal was rejected by the Turkish court in the western province of İzmir. The 2nd Penal Court in İzmir rejected the appeal on Wednesday and sent the defendant’s petition to a higher court, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News.

It usually takes a court between three and seven days to process an appeal, but a ruling could come sooner in this case, Brunson’s lawyer told Reuters. “A ruling can come tomorrow, or even tonight. These are appeals that require fast decision making because they are related to an individual’s freedom,” he said. A previous appeal by Halavurt on behalf of Brunson was rejected by the court.

Brunson, who has been living in Turkey for more than two decades, has been accused of helping alleged members of the Gülen movement. He has also been charged with supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The continued detention of Brunson has become a lightning rod in strained relations between Turkey and the US, leading Washington to slap economic and political sanctions on its NATO ally.

Brunson was released for house arrest on July 25. The court ordered him to wear an electronic bracelet at all times and barred him from traveling outside of the country. His next hearing as part of the trial is scheduled for Oct. 12.

The United States has warned that more economic pressure may be in store for Turkey if it refuses to release Brunson, a White House official said on Tuesday, in a dispute that has further strained relations between the NATO allies, according to a report by Reuters.

The tough message emerged a day after White House National Security Adviser John Bolton met privately with Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kılıç about Brunson’s case. Bolton warned him that the United States would not give any ground, a senior US official said.

The White House official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said “nothing has progressed” thus far on the Brunson case. “The administration is going to stay extremely firm on this. The president is 100 percent committed to bringing pastor Brunson home, and if we do not see actions in the next few days or a week there could be further actions taken,” the official said.

Further actions would likely take the form of economic sanctions, the official said, adding, “The pressure is going to keep up if we’re not seeing results.”

According to the White House, which is ratcheting up pressure on Ankara to free Brunson after two years of detention, President Donald Trump is frustrated that Turkey has not released the cleric.

“The president has a great deal of frustration on the fact that Pastor Brunson has not been released as well as the fact that other US citizens and employees of diplomatic facilities have not been released,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at a briefing on Tuesday.

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