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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says the US will hit Turkey with "big sanctions" over an American pastor arrested in terror and espionage charges ( 19659004) Trump said on board Air Force One, "The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey because pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, a family man and a wonderful person, has been imprisoned for a long time." Trump said that Brunson "suffers greatly, this innocent man of faith should be published immediately!"
A few hours earlier, Vice President Mike Pence said that if Turkey did not take immediate action to liberate Brunson, "the United States of America will impose significant sanctions on Turkey." Pence spoke at the end of a three-day conference in Washington religious freedom.
Brunson, 50, an evangelical Christian pastor who was originally from North Carolina, was released from prison on Wednesday after 1
"Brunson is an innocent man, there is no credible evidence against him," said Pence.
Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson's release and Twitter said last week that the pastor's detention was "total disgrace."
If convicted, Brunson is sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for "committing crimes for terrorist groups without being a member", references to outlaw Kurdish fighters and the network of a Muslim cleric living in the USA blamed for a failed one Coup attempt. He could get another 20 years if convicted of espionage.
Brunson strictly rejects the indictment.
The case has strained relations between NATO allies Turkey and USA.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously blamed the Turkish government for the failed military coup in July 2016 in connection with Brunson's return to the US for the extradition of the cleric Fethullah Gülen.
Gulen, who staged the coup attempt, lives in Pennsylvania. Turkish requests for arrest and extradition were not granted.
At the end of a recent hearing, the court refused Brunson's lawyer in a prison complex in western Turkey, saying that he would be released until the trial ends. The case was adjourned until 12 October.