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Turkish court rejects US pastor's appeal despite Trump's threats

Last week, Trump warned Turkey of 'large sanctions' if pastor Andrew Brunson is not released
Andrew Brunson faces up to 25 years in jail (AFP)

A Turkish court rejected the appeal of American pastor Andrew Brunson who is being held for alleged links with the 2016 failed coup plotters, despite threats by US President Donald Trump to impose "large sanctions" on Turkey.

Brunson's case has added strain to Washington's already tense relationship with Ankara.

Last week, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both warned Turkey that it may face sanctions if it does not release the pastor, whom they described as an "innocent man of faith".

Turkey had rebuked the US's threats, stressing that Brunson's case is in the hands of the country's "independent judiciary".

"No one dictates to Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu posted on Twitter on Thursday after Trump's threats. "Rule of law is for everyone; no exception."

Brunson, who is under house arrest pending trial, denies the charges. He faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty. The pastor had lived in Turkey for more than two decades.

The next court hearing is on 12 October. Brunson's lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said he would keep pressing for the pastor's release. "We are going to request his house arrest be lifted every month," he told Reuters.

Earlier this month, Israel released Turkish tourist Ebru Ozkan who had been arrested for alleged ties to the Palestinian group Hamas - charges that she has denied.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 14 July phone call to let Ozkan go in a "trade" for Brunson, who has spent 21 months in Turkish detention.

The move failed to secure Brunson's release.

Ankara had proposed a different trade that had been reportedly rejected by Washington: Brunson for US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for the failed coup.

"Give him [Gulen] to us, and we will try [Brunson] and give him back," Erdogan said in September.

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