Trump administration sanctions Turkish officials over detained American pastor

Trump administration sanctions Turkish officials over detained American pastor”

Turkey's currency plummeted to a record low against the dollar Wednesday after the Trump administration said it plans to impose sanctions on its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally for failing to release a detained American pastor who has been imprisoned in the country for almost two years.

The two officials targeted by sanctions "played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention" of Brunson, the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement. The sanctions against them prohibit USA citizens from doing business with both men and block any of their property that rests within American jurisdiction.

"We strongly protest the sanctions announced by the US Treasury Department", it read.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his government won't back down and may "go its own way" if the USA imposes sanctions.

"President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action", he said.

Last week, Brunson was allowed to leave prison and remain under house arrest, but his request to leave Turkey was denied.

Washington is "not happy with Turkey's decision not to release" the pastor, said the White House spokeswoman, adding that US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have discussed the issue "on several occasions".

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that the imposing sanctions against Turkey due to the continued imprisonment of US pastor Andrew Brunson. "I don't have any assets or money in the United States nor in any other countries".

He is also charged with ties to the movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan blames for the failed coup.

The pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, N.C., has lived in Turkey for 23 years and led Izmir Resurrection Church.

A Turkish court denied the pastor's appeal on Tuesday.

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, quickly responded, also via Twitter: "No one dictates Turkey". Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thought they had a deal to get Brunson's release last month.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 14 July phone call to let Ozkan go in a "trade" for Brunson, who has spent 21 months in Turkish detention. And they have had lawmakers' bipartisan backing in the campaign to obtain Brunson's release.

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