Friday, 19 October, 2018

U.S. hits Turkey with sanctions over American pastor's detention

Demiroren News Agency  AFP  File  STRAndrew Brunson spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016 Demiroren News Agency AFP File STRAndrew Brunson spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016
Scott Davis | 02 August, 2018, 10:58

Brunson, an evangelical pastor, was arrested in December 2016 and jailed. It said Turkey would "respond in kind without delay" against what it described as an aggressive stance by the United States.

"We call on the USA administration to walk back from this wrong decision", the Turkish foreign ministry said in response to the news, calling the move a "hostile stance".

Erdogan says he never used Brunson as a bargaining chip, although he previously linked Brunson's return to the US extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara holds responsible for the failed coup.

Sanders said the officials played "leading roles" in the arrest and detention of 50-year-old Andrew Brunson. The sanctions against them prohibit USA citizens from doing business with both men and block any of their property that rests within American jurisdiction.

The Treasury accuses Gul and Soylu of serious human rights violations.

Turkey's businessmen and citizens are expecting to hear the "100-day action plan" about to be announced next Friday by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself.

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

But the move stoked tensions rather than defusing the crisis, with United States media reports accusing Turkey of reneging on a deal to free him, which Ankara has denied.




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

"The biggest takeaway of all of this ... is we're finally seeing frustrations with Turkey coalesce across the USA government", she said. Turkey's Foreign Ministry was expected to release a statement later on Wednesday.

Despite these long-standing and significant ties - not to mention the huge potential to backfire - the Trump Administration had to deliver a message to Erdogan and the Turkish government that imprisoning Americans is not acceptable, according to Eric Edelman, former ambassador to Turkey.

Now under house arrest, Brunson faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Though the sanctions designations on the two ministers were largely symbolic-and a far cry from broader sanctions on the financial sector the United States could deploy-they still sent the Turkish lira to a record low.

He was moved into house arrest last month for health reasons, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this was not enough.

Trump's executive order was used this summer to sanction people in Nicaragua deemed responsible for human rights abuses and corruption. The pastor has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years.

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