U.S. Issues Sanctions Against Turkey Over Detention of American Pastor

Angela Merkel with President Erdogan in Instanbul in 2015

Angela Merkel with President Erdogan in Instanbul in 2015GUIDO BERGMANN GETTY

A Turkish court rejected an appeal on Tuesday for an American pastor to be released from house arrest during his trial on terrorism charges, his lawyer said, in a case which has raised the threat of US sanctions against Ankara. It said Turkey would "respond in kind without delay" against what it described as an aggressive stance by the United States.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for almost two decades, was arrested later that year and charged with complicity in the attempt to overthrow Erdogan's government.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the Trump administration would sanction Turkey's minister of justice and minister of interior over the holding of 50-year-old Andrew Craig Brunson.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tukey will retaliate for the new sanctions.

"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being".

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Gul and Soylu, she said, "played leading roles in the arrest and detention" of Brunson. "As a result, any property or interest in property of both ministers within USA jurisdiction is blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them".

Treasury accused the two of "implementing Turkey's serious human rights abuses".

He said Erdogan overestimated the significance of his personal relationship with Trump, given growing impatience with Turkey in Congress, the State Department, and Pentagon.

The penalties announced Wednesday, which aim to punish the chiefs of Turkey's ministries of justice and the interior, mark a significant escalation in the recent frictions between the two key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

He wrote: "A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected US Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison".

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"The biggest takeaway of all of this ... is we're finally seeing frustrations with Turkey coalesce across the USA government", she said.

The US has maintained that there is no credible evidence to support the charges brought against Brunson.

Mr Brunson has been in a Turkish jail since October 2016 for allegedly being a threat to national security.

"President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action", Pompeo said in a statement. Turkey's Foreign Ministry was expected to release a statement later on Wednesday.

Indeed, the Turkish currency slid to a record low after the White House announced the sanctions.

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Last week, Ankara rebuked Trump's threats, which had been echoed by his Vice President Mike Pence.

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