Turkish court rejects appeal by US pastor amid diplomatic crisis

#Diplomacy

After threats exchanged about more sanctions, Turkish court rejects US preacher's appeal

A Turkish court rejected appeal by detained US pastor at heart of diplomatic row (AFP)
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Friday 17 August 2018 13:08 UTC
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A Turkish court has rejected the appeal to release detained US pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday, as Turkey and the US continue to lock horns over the preacher's fate.

A day after the US warned it could impose further sanctions if Brunson was not released, his appeal to be released from house arrest while he faces terrorism charges were rejected, Turkish channel Haberturk reported.

Following the US warnings and the court ruling, the Turkish currency has fallen to 6.21 against the dollar in the latest fluctuations caused by the ongoing diplomatic crisis.

Washington and Ankara have exchanged tit-for-tat tariffs in Trump's attempt to persuade President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give up Brunson, who denies charges that he was involved in a coup attempt in Turkey two years ago.

Brunson's lawyer Cem Halavurt told AFP he would appeal again after 15 days.

"We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a meeting of President Donald Trump's cabinet on Thursday.

Turkey's trade minister has promised the country would respond to any further sanctions.

'We want to see some goodwill'

Despite the stand-off Turkish diplomats negotiating with the US government have offered to release Brunson in exchange for a sign of goodwill from the US, Middle East Eye revealed Friday.

"We need something in return after all those challenging comments between the US and Turkey."

- Turkish diplomatic source

“We know we have to solve the crisis at least for the sake of our economy and technically, it's possible for us to release Brunson,” a high-level diplomatic source told MEE.

“But we need something in return after all those challenging comments between the US and Turkey.” 

Specifically, during the trip to Washington last week, he said, the Turks offered a plan which would have seen Brunson released in exchange for leniency in two US government investigations into the Turkish state lender Halkbank.

The bank is being investigated over alleged Iran sanctions-busting, another source of tension between the two countries.

“We want to see some goodwill about the fate of these investigations. But the Trump administration said that their judiciary was independent and couldn’t promise anything,” the source said.

So then the Turkish side proposed the extradition of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy CEO of Halkbank who was sentenced in May to 32 months in prison after he was convicted of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade US sanctions.

The US State Department had not responded to MEE's request for comment by the time of publication.

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EXCLUSIVE: Turkey ready to release pastor but US offering nothing

Brunson, a missionary working in Turkey for more than 20 years, was arrested in December 2016, accused of backing the coup attempt that July against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

His case was back in the headlines on 18 July when a Turkish judge in Izmir decided to keep Brunson in jail until his next hearing in October.

In response, the US sanctioned Turkey’s justice and interior ministers. Last week, a Turkish delegation headed to Washington as the two countries attempted to hammer out their differences with little success.