Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that he has spoken with jailed pastor Andrew Brunson and warned Turkish leaders that if they don’t release the church leader the country will face “significant sanctions,” a promise President Donald Trump has seconded.
Pence, who first tweeted the ultimatum to Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Thursday morning, doubled down on his threat when he gave a keynote speech at the State Department’s first-ever three-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.
Before foreign delegations from over 80 countries, Pence publicly reprimanded the NATO ally, who has held the North Carolina pastor since October 2017.
Although many were happy to see that a Turkish court ordered Brunson to be removed from prison and placed under house arrest in Izmir on Wednesday, due to health concerns, Pence stressed that moving Brunson from prison to home detention is not enough.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson is an innocent man. There is no credible evidence against him. Our entire administration has worked tirelessly to secure Pastor Brunson’s release,” Pence said. “Yesterday, Turkey released Pastor Brunson from prison only to place him under house arrest. This is a welcome first step but it is not good enough.”
Pence explained that he spoke with the 50-year-old Brunson and his wife, Norine, over the phone Wednesday.
“I know that his faith will sustain him but it shouldn’t have to,” Pence added. “He deserves to be free.”
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SOURCE: The Christian Post, Samuel Smith