Wednesday, August 1, 2018 10:35 pm
The United States sanctioned Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Wednesday over the country’s imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson.
The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the men had played leading roles in Brunson’s 2016 arrest and detention.
“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement formally announcing the financial restrictions.
“President Donald Trump has made it abundantly clear that the U.S. expects Turkey to release him immediately.”
On Tuesday, a Turkish court rejected Brunson’s appeal to be released from house arrest during his trial on terrorism charges.
Turkey has accused him of helping the group that Ankara has said was behind a failed military coup two years ago.
Sanders said that President Trump had spoken with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan about Brunson.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with his counterpart by telephone and they planned to meet on the sidelines of ASEAN meetings this week in Singapore, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
Anticipation of the U.S. sanctions had already helped to send the Turkish lira to an all-time low against the dollar on Wednesday.
Trump threatened Turkey with sanctions if Brunson was not released back to the U.S., but Turkish President Recep Erdogan rejected the U.S. warnings.
Brunson is but one of many sources of tensions in the US-Turkey relationship, not least the case of a Turkish banker from a state-run lender, Halkbank, who was convicted this year his role in a billion-dollar oil-for-gold scheme to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Trump and Erdogan have repeatedly spoken on phone and in person.
For about two decades Brunson, 50, headed a small, evangelical Presbyterian church in the city of Izmir in western Turkey. Originally from North Carolina, he lived and worked in Turkey for 23 years.
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