President Trump on Thursday said the United States would impose "large sanctions" on Turkey for its detainment of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor held for almost two years on terrorism-related charges, who us officials say is innocent. "The Government of Turkey should now release Pastor Brunson and immediately return him to the United States, an action that would begin to restore the longstanding friendship between our two nations".
Pence's initial announcement of possible sanctions came at the close of a three-day conference on religious freedom. One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Mr. Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.
Trump tweeted Thursday that he'd hit Turkey with "large" penalties for detaining Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor who has been imprisoned in the country over charges of espionage and terrorism.
The pastor, who denies the charges, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.
While the Kurds have proven themselves to be invaluable allies to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the USA considers the PKK, a Kurdish independence movement inside Turkey, as a terrorist organization for its violent tactics.
Last October, Arriaga and then-USCIRF Vice Chairman Sandra Jolley were granted access to Kiriklar Prison in Izmir to visit with Brunson, the first visitors outside of family, legal counsel and U.S. Embassy officials.
If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison for "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member", references to outlawed Kurdish militants and the network of a US-based Muslim cleric blamed for a failed coup attempt.
Brunson served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation, and has lived in Turkey for 23 years.
President Trump, in a tweet last week, called Turkey's prosecution of Brunson "a total disgrace".
Erdoğan has previously linked his fate to that of Gülen, whose extradition from the United States has been a long-held demand of Turkish authorities.
More than 77,000 people were arrested across Turkey after the government declared a state of emergency following the failed 2016 coup.
At the end of a recent hearing, the court inside a prison complex in western Turkey rejected Brunson lawyer's request that he be freed pending the outcome of the trial.
"To believers across America, I say: pray for Pastor Brunson".