US sanctions two Turkish officials over detention of American pastor

US sanctions two Turkish officials over detention of American pastor

US sanctions two Turkish officials over detention of American pastor

He faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the sanctions would target Turkey's justice and interior ministers, whose agencies she said were responsible for the pastor's arrest and detention.

He also said his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, would hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting in Singapore.

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

Brunson was detained in the aftermath of a failed 2016 coup on charges of "committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member" and espionage. The penalties also bar any USA transactions with the two men.

According to the Treasury Department, Wednesday's sanctions were imposed in accordance with an executive order Trump signed in December pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Act, a human rights measure Congress passed in 2016.

Vice President Mike Pence warned Turkey last week at the State Department's first Ministerial on Religious Freedom that if it did not release Brunson, it would face USA sanctions.

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

Venting about press, Trump has repeatedly sought to ban reporters over questions
He added that he would consider a visit to Washington but noted there must be "necessary conditions", without further explanation. Interfax quoted Mr Putin as saying he is ready to visit Washington "if the appropriate conditions are created there".

Imposing sanctions on senior government officials of an allied country is a major escalation and a reflection of just how dire relations between Washington and Ankara have grown in the two years since the coup attempt in Turkey.

Brunson's supporters maintain that the charges against him were fabricated.

Andrew Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was placed under house arrest last week after almost two years in jail on charges of espionage and supporting terror groups.

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.

"President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action", Pompeo said in a statement.

Last week, Brunson was allowed to leave prison and remain under house arrest, but his request to leave Turkey was denied. He's a man of profound Christian faith, who has ministered in Turkey for more than 20 years.

Turkey is calling on the United States to reverse its decision to sanction two Turkish government ministers over a detained American pastor and is threatening to retaliate "without delay".

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

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