President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey recently claimed that releasing imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson is not within his power.

“This is a judiciary matter,” Erdogan said in an interview with Reuters at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. “Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges … On Oct. 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 maintained that “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.”

Andrew Brunson is a 50-year-old American citizen who has pastored a small church in the coastal city of Izmir, Turkey for over 20 years. He was among the many detained by the Turkish government in the wake of the attempted coup against Erdogan in July 2016. For almost two years, he has been imprisoned in Turkey under charges of terrorism, spying and insurgency. He denies the charges, but could face 35 years in prison if found guilty. U.S. officials expected him to be freed last July, but he was instead moved to house arrest.

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