Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened Thursday to impose "large sanctions" on its NATO ally Turkey if that country does not release an American pastor currently under house arrest.
Trump threatens to sanction Turkey if they don't release US pastor
"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being," tweeted Trump.
"He is suffering greatly," Trump added. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!"
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.
He was released on house arrest Wednesday and ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device.
Prior to Trump's tweet, Pence made a similar threat. "If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this man of faith and send him home to America," he told attendees at a Ministerial on Religious Freedom at the State Department, "the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free."
"While he is out of jail he is still not free," Pence said in his speech.
"And to President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the President of the United States of America," he continued. "Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences."
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu responded to the threats saying the country will "never tolerate threats from anybody."
"No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception," Cavusoglu said on his official Twitter account Thursday.
The Trump administration has long highlighted Brunson's case, raising it with Turkish officials and in statements in the media. Still, Thursday's threat of sanctions marks a distinct escalation in rhetoric that coincides with a broader cooling in the US-Turkey relationship.
Trump and Pence have had multiple conversations with officials in the Turkish government regarding the detained American pastor in recent weeks, an administration official tells CNN.