U.S. warns Turkey of consequences if jailed pastor isn't freed

People stand on a tank during the night of the attempted military coup in Turkey

People stand on a tank during the night of the attempted military coup in Turkey

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The Trump administration says it's considering "consequences" for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey if Turkey doesn't throw out the charges or acquit an American pastor accused of espionage and aiding terrorist groups.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey may extend the state of emergency for the 10th time for the peace of the country when necessary.

Last month, the Second High Penal Court in the Aegean province of Izmir in Turkey accepted an indictment written by the Public Prosecutor's Office, which demanded up to 15 years in prison for crimes in the name of the Gulen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, and up to 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political or military espionage, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

"The United States Government, and millions of Americans deeply concerned by the Brunson case, have been patient, in the hope that justice would be done and Pastor Brunson would be reunited with his family", the senators wrote. It is an absurd collection of anonymous accusations, flights of fantasy, and random character assassination. However, the 66 senators say they now have "concluded that other measures will be necessary to ensure that the government of Turkey respects the right of law-abiding citizens and employees of the United States to travel to, reside in, and work in Turkey without fear of persecution".

It suggested that Brunson was being used as a "political pawn by elements of the Turkish government bent on destroying the longstanding partnership between two great nations".

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But last September, Erdogan indicated that the fate of Brunson relied on the USA government's willingness to hand over Gulen.

He was first detained in October 2016 and later accused of supporting two groups which the Turkish government blames for the attempted coup.

Shaheen and Republican Senator James Lankford, who are members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a separate statement that they would push for sanctions against Turkish officials in an upcoming spending bill in response to Brunson's imprisonment.

"They call him a spy, but I am more a spy than he is".

Mitchell's comments come a day after President Donald Trump tweeted in defense of Brunson.

"My family is just happy this case is moving [forward]", she said. That's also a possibility.

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