President Trump isn't done fighting for Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, who is being held in Turkey.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. is set to impose sanctions on two Turkish officials over the detained pastor. Brunson is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges, but he says he is being targeted because he's Christian.
President Donald Trump warned last week that he might impose sanctions against Turkey for its treatment of Brunson. The case has strained U.S.-Turkish relations, and the Turkish president refuses to back down.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that the sanctions will target Turkey’s justice and interior ministers. Those two agencies are responsible for the pastor’s arrest and detention.
Under the sanctions to be imposed by the Treasury Department, any property, or interest in property, belonging to Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul or Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu within U.S. jurisdiction would be blocked. Americans would generally be prohibited from doing business with them.
“We’ve seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong, and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey,” Sanders said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also issued a statement. He said that the failure to release Brunson after numerous communications between Trump and Turkish President Erdogan meant further action needed to be taken.
“President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action,” Pompeo said.
On July 25, the news broke that Andrew Brunson, the North Carolina pastor who has been jailed in Turkey, has been moved out of prison to house arrest.
CBN reported the news, which gives hope for his safe return home. This is the "first sign of hope" for the pastor, who has been imprisoned for nearly 2 years.
Earlier in the year, he said he's in prison for being a Christian pastor—not for wrongdoing.
"Let it be clear," wrote Brunson from his prison cell. "I am in prison not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am – a Christian pastor. I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet I believe this to be true: it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have before me. My deepest thanks for all those around the world who are standing with me and praying for me.”
There was hope in early July that he would be released from jail after international outrage broke out.
"The prosecution, however, disappointed the optimists by bringing additional witnesses to the court, who presented unsubstantiated claims and hearsay. Meanwhile, Turkey’s pro-government media continued to smear the pastor, denying him any possibility of a fair trial," said Aykan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish Parliament and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
President Trump has repeatedly demanded that Turkey release Brunson. Over 60 senators have also signed a letter to the Turkish administration calling for Brunson's release.
"I'm convinced that this is a risk to every single American," said Senator Tillis said back in April on the Senate floor. "Pastor Brunson needs to know that he has the backing of the US Senate."
Brunson is the native of a small town in western North Carolina, and he has lived and worked in Turkey for nearly 25 years. While there, he has been running a local church and hasn't been involved in overthrowing the Turkish government, claims his defenders.
His daughter, Jacqueline Brunson, described the allegations against her father as "absurd" when speaking to the United States Human Rights Council. She claims that her father is innocent and that the only crime he has committed is being a Christian pastor.
She added, "Turkey should not get away with holding my father one more day."
Jacqueline continued, "Having grown up in Turkey, it has been hard for me to understand the situation. My family loves and respects the Turkish people, and my father has been dedicated to serving them for over two decades."
"I know the allegations against my father are absurd. He is not an armed terrorist trying to overthrow any government, my father is a peaceful pastor. My family has suffered greatly during the past year and a half, which has been filled with tears, and countless unanswered questions."
Please join us in praying for Pastor Brunson's safe return to the United States. Thank you, President Trump, for your efforts! In other news, the FDA has recalled a common heart and blood pressure medication because it causes cancer. This recall only gets more serious as we learn more. Please pray for everyone who has been taking this drug. The recall could impact anyone with heart problems.