ANKARA: The spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed what he said was the US disregard for Turkey’s legal process, adding Washington had made arbitrary comments and demands in the case of a detained pastor.
In a statement to Reuters, Ibrahim Kalin called on the US to respect Turkey’s judicial independence, one of Ankara’s most pointed responses yet to criticism over its detention of evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson.
“There is rule of law in Turkey and the Andrew Brunson case is a legal issue. There is an ongoing legal process related to this individual,” Kalin said.
“It goes without saying that we find unacceptable the disregard of the legal process by the United States, which has been making certain demands.”
His comments came after President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton earlier said that Turkey made a “big mistake” in not releasing Brunson.
Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies, and is now under house arrest.
Trump, who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters, has become a vocal champion of the pastor’s case, making him an unwitting flashpoint in the tension between two NATO allies. “Every day that goes by that mistake continues, this crisis could be over instantly if they did the right thing as a NATO ally, part of the West, and release (him) ... without condition,” Bolton said. Kalin, dismissed those statement as “arbitrary” comments and demands. He also hit back against the US over an investigation into state-owned lender Halkbank for potential Iran-sanctions busting. Turkey wants the US Treasury to halt the investigation. Halkbank has said all of its transactions were legal. A US court this year sentenced one of its executives to 32 months in prison for involvement in a scheme to avoid Iran sanctions.
“It is unacceptable that certain baseless and false allegations are made against Halkbank to weaken this public bank,” Kalin said.
“It seems that the purpose of those steps is to discredit respectable institutions and persons, and to punish them unjustly rather than discover the truth.”
Economists said Turkey had still to convince investors it was ready to take measures needed to shore up its economy.
“The problems of Turkey are not fixed,” said Cristian Maggio, head of emerging markets strategy at TD Securities. “There is not one single structural solution or reform that has been advanced or detailed by the local authorities.”
Maggio added that lira volatility had increased due to thin trading volumes as Turkish markets are closed all week for Eid Al-Adha.
Kalin said that comments by Bolton showed the US was targeting Turkey’s economy.
Bolton was also skeptical about $15 billion of investment support from Qatar, saying it was “utterly insufficient to have an impact on Turkey’s economy.”
“(Bolton’s) statement is proof that the Trump administration is targeting a NATO ally as part of an economic war,” Kalin said.
“The Trump administration has ... established that it intends to use trade, tariffs and sanctions to start a global trade war.”
Until Kalin’s statement, Turkish officials had been silent about comments on Turkey this week by Trump and Bolton.
Trump told Reuters on Monday he would make no concessions to Ankara in return for Brunson’s release.