Turkey’s Erdogan Says He Won’t Fulfill ‘Unlawful Requests’ to Release Pastor Andrew Brunson

President of Turkey and Leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara, on January 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that the Turkish government will not accept requests to release detained American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Citing the pro-government Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Reuters reports that Erdogan told reporters that the Turkish government would not fulfill “unlawful requests” pertaining to Brunson, who has been detained since October 2016 and charged with what the U.S. government says are baseless terrorism crimes.

Erdogan’s remark comes as President Donald Trump and his administration have been steadfast in their pressuring of the Turkish government to release the 50-year-old pastor from North Carolina, who has served as a church leader in Izmir for the past two decades.

“It’s not nice for them to demand ‘you will send him, hand him over to us,'” Erdogan said, according to Bloomberg. “Such threats won’t produce results.”

Erdogan’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, told Reuters last week that the U.S. should respect Turkey’s judicial independence.

“There is rule of law in Turkey and the Andrew Brunson case is a legal issue,” Kalin was quoted as saying. “There is an ongoing legal process related to this individual.”

Yet, that legal process has been questioned by U.S. officials and human rights advocates.

Brunson was not only held for 17 months before being charged with affiliation with Kurdish militants and an Islamic group blamed for the 2016 coup attempt, but he also faced a court process that critics say has lacked due process.

Advocates for Brunson say that the prosecution’s case has consisted of secret witnesses lacking firsthand accounts. So far, Brunson has faced three hearings. Days after the third hearing in July, Brunson was removed from prison and ordered to home confinement.

Although Erdogan and his spokesperson claim to have an independent judiciary, it should be noted that thousands of Turkish judges have been dismissed from their positions in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt against the Erdogan government.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith