USA slaps sanctions on Turkish officials over detaining of American pastor

US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin gestures during a press conference in Buenos Aires

US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin gestures during a press conference in Buenos Aires

The White House has not specified what sanctions might be imposed on Turkey but members of the U.S. Congress, in two pieces of legislation pending approval, have condemned the detention of Brunson and other Americans. While negotiations for his release were ongoing, President Donald Trump promised "large sanctions" in a tweet Wednesday.

The two ministers will have any assets and properties under USA jurisdiction blocked and US persons will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with the ministers, CNN reported.

Turkey's foreign ministry said it had shared "necessary information" with the U.S., but insisted the case should be left with its judiciary.

It urged Trump to reconsider the sanctions.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs promised Wednesday to retaliate with "an equivalent response" if the USA does not walk back "this wrong decision".

"We strongly protest the sanctions announced by the U.S. Treasury Department", read the written statement issued by the Foreign Ministry late Aug 1.

"We've seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the government of Turkey", she emphasized. Turkey released him from prison on house arrest last week.

A Turkish justice ministry spokesman did not immediately comment on the sanctions.

Washington sanctioned Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu over the pastor's detention. "It is impossible to accept the U.S. Administration's threatening messages, which totally disregard our alliance and friendly relations between our countries". "Maybe I'll buy an olive grove in my hometown in Gaziantep?"

He is accused of supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, and exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

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.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced possible "large sanctions" against the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally on Thursday in retaliation for the treatment of Brunson, who was detained in the aftermath of a failed 2016 coup against Turkey's government.

Mr. Brunson had been jailed for about 18 months on terrorism-related charges. He lived with his wife and three children while working as the pastor of the small Izmir Resurrection Church, which had a congregation of about two dozen. Brunson's lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, told the Reuters news agency that he was notified on Tuesday of the court's decision.

"No one dictates Turkey. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception".

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during this week's meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). And they have had lawmakers' bipartisan backing in the campaign to obtain Brunson's release.

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