Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan suggested on Thursday that Turkey could free a detained U.S. pastor if the United States hands over a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Ankara blames for a failed military coup last year.
Turkey has been holding American pastor Andrew Brunson since October 2016 and Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen has been living in Pennsylvania.
According to The Christian Post, Gulen fled to the U.S. after being accused of spearheading a coup against Erdogan’s government, which took place in July 2016. Two hundred fifty people lost their lives in the coup.
Brunson, who was working in Turkey as a missionary, was detained also in relation to the coup and accused of being a part of Gulen’s network.
“‘Give us the pastor back,’ they say. You have one pastor as well. Give him (Gulen) to us,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara. “Then we will try him (Brunson) and give him to you.”
“The (pastor) we have is on trial. Yours is not; he is living in Pennsylvania. You can give him easily. You can give him right away,” he added.
The U.S. has maintained that Brunson has done nothing wrong and has been trying to get him released. It is yet unclear whether the Trump administration will respond to Erdogan’s suggestion of a prisoner exchange.