Lira takes another hit as United States pastor loses appeal

Virginia Carson
August 19, 2018

Trump, before leaving the White House on Friday, denounced Turkey as a "problem for a long time" and said it made up a "phony" spying charge against Andrew Brunson.

The two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members are at odds over Turkey's detention of an American pastor, which has triggered a trade row and sent the local currency the lira into a tailspin.

A Turkish appeals court refused to release Brunson on Friday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Saturday that his country would not be cowed by the United States, his latest broadside in the bitter feud between Ankara and Washington.

Turkey, in turn, criticized the prosecution in the US of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a top official at Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank who was convicted of helping Iran avoid USA sanctions.

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The lira has nosedived against the dollar, dropping as much as 20 percent on one day last week. He demanded Brunson's release, saying "they can't take our people".

Turkey, meanwhile, is frustrated by the refusal of the extradite a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkish authorities of engineering the coup attempt.

On Friday, Turkey's battered lira weakened 3 percent after a Turkish court rejected an American pastor's appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from President Donald Trump, who said the United States would not take the detention "sitting down".

Heavy selling in recent weeks has spread to other emerging market currencies and global stocks and deepened concerns about the economy, particularly Turkey's dependence on energy imports and whether foreign-currency debt poses a risk to banks. Erdogan is refusing to raise interest rates, which could quell rising inflation and make Turkish bonds more attractive to investors.

Trump said Turkey has "not acted like a friend".

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Brunson was arrested in October 2016 and moved to house arrest in July.

"Do you think the lira will gain against the dollar if Brunson is released?" "Would the amount of Turkey's debts decrease?"

Supporters of Brunson, who ran a small church in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir, say allegations that he was linked to Kurdish rebels as well as Turkish cleric and alleged coup plotter Fethullah Gulen are absurd.

Earlier on Wednesday, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said the US side would consider lifting sanctions that have been placed on Turkey if Ankara released Brunson and other detained USA citizens. "They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage".

"We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!"

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If convicted, the American pastor faces up to 35 years in jail.

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