Angered At Pastor's Detention, U.S. Levels Sanctions Against Turkish Officials

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"At the president's direction, the Department of the Treasury is sanctioning Turkey's minister of justice and minister of interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson".

"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"We believe he's a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey", Sanders told journalists, referring to Brunson, who is at the center of a bitter diplomatic spat between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two organisations Turkey deems to be terror groups: the Gulen movement and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday that the Trump administration will continue its talks with Turkish officials even as the sanctions take effect.

Brunson's detention has deepened a rift between Washington and Ankara, which are also at odds over the Syrian war, Turkey's plan to buy a missile defense system from Russian Federation, and planned US sanctions on Iran - which supplies fuel to Turkey. "President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately".

The two officials, Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, will have their assets and properties under United States jurisdiction blocked and Americans will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with them.


Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hami Aksoy added in a separate statement.

The Turkish lira fell to 5.0 against the dollar after the sanctions announcement.

Since the failed coup attempt, Turkey has been unsuccessfully lobbying the U.S.to extradite Fethullah Gulen, an elderly cleric living in Pennsylvania who Turkey says masterminded it.

Last week, Israel confirmed USA media reports that President Donald Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release Ebru Özkan, a Turkish woman accused of Hamas ties, in a July 14 phone call.

Investors in Turkey are also anticipating the possibility of a fine or sanctions against Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, a state-run lender whose former deputy chief executive officer was convicted in a NY court of participating in a scheme to help evade sanctions on Iran.

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, quickly responded, also via Twitter: "No one dictates Turkey".

"The US is trying to thread the needle here and escalate with Turkey by targeting officials associated with the Brunson case" Mr Stein said.

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