USA to impose sanctions on Turkey over detained pastor

39;No one dictates Turkey': FM over Trump's threats

An American pastor whose imprisonment for more than 600 days has tested relations between the USA and Turkey has been released from jail and placed under house arrest, in an apparent concession to repeated demands by American policymakers who called the man's detention a disgrace and threatened sanctions against Ankara.

Pence warned that if Turkey does not take immediate action to free Brunson, "the United States of America will impose severe economic sanctions on Turkey".

The announcement that Brunson would be moved from prison to house arrest comes as the State Department hosts a Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom.

Brunson, an Evangelical Presbyterian pastor from North Carolina, was arrested in 2016 during a government crackdown on journalists, academics, and Christian minorities, that followed an attempted coup.

American pastor Andrew Brunson is being held in Turkey on accusations of terror and espionage.In a tweet, President Trump called Brunson "a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being". One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Mr. Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.

Brunson has denied the charges, calling them "shameful and disgusting". He could receive another 20 years if he is found guilty of espionage.

Brunson's detention had become a symbol of the problematic relationship between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the USA, and news of his release into house arrest boosted the Turkish lira, which gained nearly one percent in value against the dollar.

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Lawmakers have also called on Turkey to release Brunson, and the final version of Congress's fiscal 2019 defense bill included a provision demanding Turkey "to release wrongfully detained USA citizens including Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge", a scientist imprisoned in Turkey.

Erdogan has in the past linked Brunson's fate with that of the USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. "Pastor Andrew Brunson deserves to be free", said Pence.

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.

While Brunson has been released from prison for health reasons, he remains under house arrest.

Last September, Erdogan suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if Washington handed over Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania - an offer brushed off by Washington. The Turkish government accused him of not only being involved in the coup, but of colluding with Kurdish militants.

NBC spoke with Brunson's lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, who says Brunson is not allowed to leave his house under any condition other than to go to interviews or court hearings.

"To believers across America, I say: pray for Pastor Brunson".

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