Angered At Pastor's Detention, U.S. Levels Sanctions Against Turkish Officials

Angered At Pastor's Detention, U.S. Levels Sanctions Against Turkish Officials

The Trump administration slapped sanctions on two top government officials in Turkey Wednesday over the continued house arrest of an American pastor working there.

The officials targeted under the so-called Global Magnitsky Act are Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

"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".

On July 25, Brunson was moved from prison and placed under house arrest.

"The sanctions target just two cabinet of the Erdogan government while leaving the rest of the Turkish economy intact", said Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury Department official who's now senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank.

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

The sanctions are modeled on those targeting the Russian government and oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, the people said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

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 US sanctions.

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The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in response to the sanctions that the United States was trying to interfere in the Turkish judicial process.

The Turkish Ministry of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eissenstat said Turkey's failure to understand United States outrage over Brunson's imprisonment - particularly in Congress - played a role in the diplomatic crisis.

His next trial hearing is due on October 12.

The sanctions come before a scheduled meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Singapore on Friday.

"Turkey knows our position well", she said Wednesday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will not bow to threats fueled by an "evangelist and Zionist mentality" in the US, as the diplomatic crisis between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members over the fate of a detained American pastor showed no signs of abating.

"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". Turkey accuses the evangelical pastor of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and to exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the failed 2016 military coup. James Lankford, R-Okla., a key leader in congressional efforts to sanction Turkey.

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