Washington, Aug 2 (IANS) The US Treasury Department will impose sanctions on two Turkish ministers in response to the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
“We’ve seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong,” Sanders said on Wednesday, calling Brunson’s detention “unfair and unjust”.
Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have discussed Brunson’s imprisonment “on several occasions”, said Sanders, who added that the US President is “not happy with Turkey’s decision not to release” the pastor, reports CNN.
The two officials — Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu — will have any assets and properties under the American jurisdiction blocked and US persons will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with the ministers.
The Treasury Department in a statement on Wednesday said: “These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organisations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses and are being targeted pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 13818, ‘Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption’, which builds upon Treasury’s Global Magnitsky Act authorities.”
“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
“President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the US expects Turkey to release him immediately.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu responded on Twitter, saying: “The effort by the US to impose sanctions on our two ministers will not go unanswered. We cannot solve our problems until the US administration understands that it cannot get its unlawful demands with this method,” CNN reported.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also put out a strong response, stating, “we vehemently protest the sanctions decision announced by the US Treasury Department… A reciprocal response will be given without delay to this aggressive attitude which serves no purpose.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with Cavusoglu on Friday in Singapore and US European Commander General Curtis M. Scaparrotti is in Ankara this week for meetings with his Turkish counterparts.
Brunson was arrested in 2016 during the Turkish government’s crackdown following an attempted coup. In March, he was formally charged with espionage and having links to terrorist organisations.
If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison. He maintains his innocence.