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Turkey will resist US efforts to impose sanctions on Ankara over the trial of a Christian pastor who has been detained for two years, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, accusing the preacher of having "dark links with terror."
The case of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, whose next court hearing is on Oct. 12, has plunged ties between Ankara and Washington into crisis, leading to U.S. sanctions and tariffs which helped push Turkey's lira to record lows in August.Brunson is charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a failed coup attempt in 2016. He has denied the charges and Washington has demanded his immediate release.
Relations between the two NATO allies were already strained by disputes over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Turkey's plans to buy a Russian missile defense system, and the jailing of a Turkish bank executive for violating US sanctions on Iran.
"We are deeply saddened by the current US government, a strategic partner, targeting our country without any logical, political and strategic consistency," Erdogan said in a speech to a new session of parliament.
Erdogan said Turkey was determined to fight, within legal and diplomatic frameworks, "this crooked understanding, which imposes sanctions using the excuse of a pastor who is tried due to his dark links with terror organizations."
Brunson's case has become the most divisive issue between the two countries. US President Donald Trump believed he and Erdogan had agreed a deal to release him in July, but Ankara has denied agreeing to free the pastor as part of a wider agreement.
Brunson, who has been jailed or held under house arrest since October 2016, faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted. Last month the main prosecutor in his trial was replaced, a move which his lawyer cautiously welcomed, saying it might be a sign of changing political will.
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