Trump to impose sanctions over Turkey's detaining of pastor

Eileen GuzmanAug 02, 2018

Faced with pressure from USA officials previous year, Erdogan suggested Brunson's release may depend on US compliance with one of his own demands: the extradition of elderly Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has repeatedly accused of organizing the 2016 coup from his compound in Pennsylvania, despite Gulen's denials.

"Noone dictates Turkey", Turkey's minister of foreign affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, wrote on Twitter. "There's no credible evidence of any wrongdoing against him", Pence said.

Speaking in Ankara, Mr Erdogan said Turkey would not make compromises regarding the independence of the judiciary, and said the remarks of the "evangelist, Zionist mentality" in the USA was unacceptable.

Mr Erdogan's spokesman said on Tuesday that Turkey would not "bow down to any threats", and would retaliate against any United States sanctions.

Turkish officials had already threatened to retaliate if Washington went ahead with sanctions.

Mr. Brunson had been jailed for about 18 months on terrorism-related charges.

WASHINGTON-The United States on Wednesday announced sanctions against Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Syleyman Soylu over Turkey's imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson.

The threatening language of the United States will not benefit anyone, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday in relation to the pastor's case.

Brunson was accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US -based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan in which 250 people were killed. Turkey released him from prison on house arrest last week.

But the move stoked tensions rather than defusing the crisis, with U.S. media reports accusing Turkey of reneging on a deal to free him, which Ankara has denied. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!" the president said of Brunson on Saturday, in a tweet from aboard Air Force One as he flew to Iowa for an event.

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. The pastor has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years.

In this case, the Treasury Department showed greater creativity in the use of financial sanctions to target just two senior officials - one of whom said on Twitter he had no USA holdings - in order to send a clear message to a foreign ally.

Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" that Brunson's release to house arrest "is just not good enough".

However, he has indicated that he would swap Brunson for Gulen, who was once an ally of the president but now lives in a secluded part of Pennsylvania.

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