ANKARA, Turkey—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that Ankara will free detained American pastor Andrew Brunson if Washington extradites exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
“‘Give us the pastor back,’ they say. You have one pastor as well. Give him to us…then we will try him and give him to you,” Erdogan said during a speech to police officers at the presidential palace in Ankara on Sept. 28, RT reported.
Turkey accuses Gulen of being behind last year’s failed coup attempt in the country.
“The [pastor] we have is on trial. Yours is not—he is living in Pennsylvania. You can give him easily. You can give him right away,” Erdogan went on.
Brunson was detained in Turkey on terrorism charges last October. As the pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church—a small Protesant church with about 25 congregants—Brunson was applying for Turkish permanent residency, having lived there 23 years, when he was imprisoned on Oct. 7, 2016, accused of being a member of the Gulen movement.
The U.S. says the pastor has been wrongfully imprisoned and has called for his release. According to a letter to the president of Turkey signed by 78 members of the U.S. Congress in February, “There appears to be no evidence to substantiate the charges against him for membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
U.S. President Donald Trump also asked Ankara to return Brunson to the U.S. in May, according to a statement released by the White House.