The American pastor jailed in Turkey on espionage and terrorism-related charges was praised by President Trump on Thursday who called him “a great patriot hostage” -- and said the U.S. would “pay nothing for the release of an innocent man.”
Trump, in a tweet, condemned the Turkish government for taking “advantage” of the U.S. and added that while the administration would not pay for Pastor Andrew Brunson's release, the U.S. is “cutting back on Turkey.”
Trump likely was referring to the increase in tariffs and sanctions he authorized last week -- after which the Turkish economy took a tumble.
“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”
The Turkish lira weakened in value from 4.7 on the dollar to 6.4 on the dollar Friday, for the first time in history breaking the 6 mark.
The Trump administration has threatened more sanctions if Turkey does not release Brunson.
The pastor has been detained in Turkey for 21 months on “terrorism” charges – suspected of having ties to the outlawed Gulenist movement – along with espionage accusations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded the U.S. extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who denies Turkish allegations that he engineered a failed 2016 coup.
U.S. State Department representatives have said the claims against Brunson are not credible. The pastor faces a prison sentence of up to 35 years if convicted.
National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke Monday with the Turkish ambassador to the United States and told him to release Brunson, U.S. officials said. The administration has threatened more sanctions if Turkey does not comply.