Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the court, not politicians, will decide the fate of detained American pastor Andrew Brunson who faces terrorism charges.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US, on September 25, 2018.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US, on September 25, 2018. (Reuters)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a Turkish court, not politicians, will decide the fate of an American pastor whose detention on terrorism charges has roiled relations between Ankara and Washington.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he was hopeful Turkey would release evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson this month. He was moved to house arrest in July after being detained for 21 months.

In an interview on Tuesday while he was in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings, Erdogan said any decision on Brunson would be made by the court.

"This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges ... On October 12 there will be another hearing and we don't know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict," Erdogan said.

TRT World's Diplomatic Correspondent Hasan Abdullah has more.

If found guilty, Brunson could be jailed for up to 35 years. He denies the charges linking him to the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, the US and the EU.

"As the president, I don't have the right to order his release. Our judiciary is independent. Let's wait and see what the court will decide," Erdogan said.

US President Donald Trump, infuriated over Brunson's detention, authorised a doubling of duties on aluminum and steel imported from Turkey in August. Turkey retaliated by increasing tariffs on US cars, alcohol and tobacco imports.

The Turkish lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year.

"The Brunson case is not even closely related to Turkey's economy. The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources," Erdogan said.

Turkey’s central bank raised its benchmark rate by a hefty 625 basis points this month.

Erdogan said the decision was a clear sign of the central bank's independence, adding that as president he was against increasing rates.

He also said Turkey will continue to purchase Iranian natural gas, despite US sanctions on Tehran.

Erdogan said it was impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue with Syrian regime Bashar al Assad in power.

Earlier this month, Turkey and Russia reached an agreement to enforce a new demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib region from which "radical" rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month.

But Erdogan said the withdrawal of "radical groups" had already started.

"This part of Syria will be free of weapons which is the expectation of the people of Idlib ... who welcomed this step," he said. The demilitarised zone will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces.

Close to 3 million people live in Idlib, around half of them displaced by the war from other parts of Syria.

Source: Reuters