President TrumpDonald John TrumpMeadows threatens to force a vote on Rosenstein impeachment Republican feels "victimized" by Twitter "shadow banning" GOP senators surprised to attend Trump's tariffs announcement MORE on Thursday threatened to impose economic sanctions on Turkey over its refusal to release an American pastor that has been detained in the country for more than year.
A prison vehicle, believed to be carrying jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson, leaves from the Aliaga Prison and Courthouse complex in Izmir, Turkey July 18, 2018.
"Brunson is an innocent man, there is no credible evidence against him", Pence said.
Brunson, an Evangelical Presbyterian pastor from North Carolina, was arrested in 2016 during a government crackdown on journalists, academics, and Christian minorities, that followed an attempted coup. Sam Brownback, ambassador-at-large for worldwide religious freedom, referenced Brunson during his opening remarks on Tuesday.
Trump's tweet echoes comments Vice President Mike Pence made Wednesday night at a religious freedom summit.
The lira currency briefly weakened to 4.89 to the dollar following reports of Pence's comments, but recovered later to stand at 4.8420 at 11:01 a.m. EDT (1501 GMT).
Brunson has denied the charges, calling them "shameful and disgusting".
Brunson's detention deepened a rift between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Washington and Ankara, who are also at odds over the Syrian war and Turkey's plan to buy missile defences from Russian Federation. Shares of Halkbank, whose former deputy general manager was convicted in January of evading US sanctions on Iran, jumped 12 percent.
President Trump, in a tweet last week, called Turkey's prosecution of Brunson "a total disgrace".
In 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the pastor could be freed in exchange for the extradition of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, another person that Turkey has accused of being behind the failed coup. He was also charged with supporting outlawed PKK Kurdish militants.
Gulen, who denies orchestrating the coup attempt, lives in Pennsylvania.
The US Senate passed a bill last month including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because of Brunson's imprisonment and Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defence system.