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Trump imposes sanctions on Turkish officials over U.S. pastor's detention

02 August 2018

USA pastor Andrew Brunson (C) is released from jail and will be put under house arrest during the duration of his trial, at Aliaga Prison in Izmir, Turkey. Turkey has waged a two-year effort to have Gulen extradited from the United States. He is facing up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of supporting the coup.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee 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.

The Trump administration has been pressuring Turkey for some time to release Brunson.

Ankara accuses Gulen of organising the July 2016 failed coup, claims which he denies.

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"At the president's direction, the Department of the Treasury is sanctioning Turkey's minister of justice and minister of interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson", Sanders told reporters. The sanctions effectively block any property or interest in property controlled by them in the US, and bar Americans from engaging in transactions with them.

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

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had threatened Turkey with painful sanctions if the pastor was not freed.

"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".

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President Donald Trump warned last week that he might impose sanctions against Turkey, a key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, for its treatment of Andrew Craig Brunson in a case that has strained U.S.

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. Turkey's Foreign Ministry was expected to release a statement later on Wednesday. Pence has said that "there is no credible evidence against" Brunson. The State Department has said they're being held as hostages for the objective of extracting concessions on other points of contention in the Turkey-U.S. relationship.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both warned Turkey last week that the United States would issue sanctions unless Turkey frees Brunson, who is now under house arrest after spending a year and a half in prison.

The Turkish lira plummeted to a new low after the sanctions were announced.

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Trump imposes sanctions on Turkish officials over U.S. pastor's detention