US warns Turkey of consequences if jailed pastor isn't freed

US warns Turkey of consequences if jailed pastor isn't freed
Cameras of members of the media are placed across from the prison complex in Aliaga, Izmir province, western Turkey, where jailed Andrew Craig Brunson appeared for his trial at a court inside the complex, Monday, April 16, 2018. Brunson, 50, a US evangelical pastor from North Carolina, was arrested in December 2016 for alleged links to both an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and the network of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric who Turkey blames for masterminding a failed military coup that year. He has denied all allegations. The court adjourned trial until May 7, 2018 and ruled that Brunson remain in custody until then. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration says it’s considering “consequences” for NATO ally Turkey if Turkey doesn’t throw out the charges or acquit an American pastor accused of espionage and aiding terrorist groups.

The top U.S. diplomat for Europe, Wess Mitchell, tells a House committee that the pastor, Andrew Brunson, is “clearly innocent” of the charges. Mitchell says the State Department is consulting with Congress about “possible measures” against Turkey if Brunson isn’t freed.

Mitchell’s comments come a day after President Donald Trump tweeted in defense of Brunson. Trump called Brunson “a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States,” who is “being persecuted in Turkey for no reason.”

The 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina faces up to 35 years in prison. Brunson denies any wrongdoing.