Turkish high court rejects appeal for US pastor Brunson's release

Andrew Brunson has been held in country since 2016

Andrew and Norine Brunson/Facebook via CNN

Andrew and Norine Brunson

(CNN) - One of Turkey's high criminal courts has rejected U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson's request to be released from house arrest and permitted to travel abroad, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolou news agency.

The pastor's appeal had been rejected by a lower court and was sent to the higher court, Brunson's lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said, according to Anadolou.

Brunson has been held in Turkey since 2016, accused of helping plot a coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The North Carolina native's case has rapidly soured relations between Washington and Ankara, with the two sides trading increasingly heated rhetoric and retaliatory tariffs. U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Friday that Turkey has "not acted as a friend," adding that "they made up these phony charges that he's a spy. He's not a spy."

"They should have given back a long time ago," Trump said. "We haven't seen the last of that. We are not going to take this sitting down."

'No credible evidence'

A State Department spokesman said Friday that "the U.S. government is following Pastor Andrew Brunson's case closely, and we continue to provide all appropriate consular services to Mr. Brunson. ... We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and we call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner."

Last week, Trump announced on Twitter that he had green-lit a doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, and warned that U.S. relations with Turkey "are not good at this time!" Two sources with knowledge told CNN that the move stemmed from Trump's frustration over Brunson's detention.

Erdogan responded on Tuesday by announcing a boycott of American electronics after Trump's decision to hike tariffs.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said Thursday the United States is prepared to put additional sanctions in place against Turkey if Brunson isn't released.

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