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U.S. threatens sanctions unless Turkey releases American pastor



WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to slap "large sanctions" on Turkey unless Ankara is released on American pastor's detention has further strained relations between NATO allies.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Pat. Vice President Mike Pence visits the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and gives remarks to their headquarters at Washington, US, July 6, 201

8. REUTERS / Leah Millis

The Trump administration escalated its pressure allowed Andrew Brunson to be arrested after 21 months in detention. He is on trial for terrorism charges.

"Trump wrote in a tweet." Trump wrote in a tweet.

"He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately! "

Shortly before, Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, leveled a threat directly at Turkey's president.

"To President (Tayyip) Erdogan and the Turkish government, release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or the consequences of the consequences," Pence said at a religious freedom event hosted by the US State Department.

The threat of sanctions prompted a downturn in Turkey's financial markets.

The lira currency briefly weakened to 4.89 to the dollar following reports of Pence's comments, but later to 4.8420 at 11:01 a.m. EDT (1501 GMT). The Istanbul bourse fell as much as 1.75 percent, before picking up slightly.

Brunson, who is from North Carolina and has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, says Ankara to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

Brunson's detention deepened a rift between Washington and Ankara, which are at odds over the Syrian and Turkey's plan to buy missile defenses from Russia.

On Wednesday, Brunson was escorted out of prison in the coastal city of Izmir, and left in a convoy of cars. His lawyer said he was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

U.S. Bruno's release and Washington had expected him to return to his trial last week.

U.S. officials have been under the impression that the Brunson was not released.

Addressing Brunson's daughter in the audience, Pence said: "I promise you, as I told your father yesterday, President Trump and I will continue to fight for your father's full release until he returns to his family and returns to the United States of America. "

The Christian right, an important component of Trump and Pence's voting base, has been pressuring the administration on the Brunson case.

Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann and Dominic Evans; Writing by Susan Heavey and Mary Milliken; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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