U.S. sanctions Turkish officials over pastor’s detention


American Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson (C), who was charged with committing crimes, including spying for the PKK terror group and the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation, arrives at the address, where he was put under house arrest due to his health problems, in Izmir, Turkey on July 25, 2018. It said Turkey would "respond in kind without delay" against what it described as an aggressive stance by the United States.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called Brunson's detention "unfair", saying that Trump had spoken with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the pastor.

In a statement issued as he was en route to meetings in East Asia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the "Turkish government refused to release Pastor Brunson after numerous conversations between President Trump and President Erdogan, and my conversations with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu".

The Trump administration has been pressuring Turkey for some time to release Brunson.

Brunson was accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US -based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the 2016 coup attempt against President Tayyip Erdogan in which 250 people were killed.

The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions Wednesday against the Turkish government in response to the detention of an American minister there.

As a result of the sanctions, US persons can't engage in transactions with either man and any property of theirs within USA jurisdiction is blocked.

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The Treasury accuses Gul and Soylu of serious human rights violations.

The measures came less than a week after President Trump promised to "impose large sanctions" on Turkey if Brunson was not immediately freed and allowed to come home, and Vice President Pence warned the Turkish government to "be prepared to face the consequences".

U.S. President Donald Trump has raised the case directly with Erdogan, Sanders said.

"Today's action dramatically underscores a glaring inconsistency: The White House continues to enforce Ankara's Armenian Genocide gag-rule even as its imposes sanctions against Turkey's increasingly anti-Armenian conduct".

Analysts say relations between the United States and Turkey have come under increasing strain in the past two years over the USA role in Syria and Turkey's stronger ties with Russian Federation. "Suffice it to say I think these are totally appropriate measures to take in order to deal with the Turkish government's hostage taking", he said, "not only of Pastor Brunson but also other Americans and the US government's local employees".

Mr Brunson has been in a Turkish jail since October 2016 for allegedly being a threat to national security. Turkey released him from prison on house arrest last week. The pastor has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Erdogan said Turkey would not make compromises regarding the independence of the judiciary, and said the remarks of the "evangelist, zionist mentality" in the United States was unacceptable.