Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

USA hits Turkish ministers with sanctions over pastor Andrew Brunson

USA hits Turkish ministers with sanctions over pastor Andrew Brunson

"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said upon announcing the sanctions.

Under the sanctions to be imposed by the Treasury Department, any property, or interest in property, belonging to Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul or Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu within US jurisdiction would be blocked. EO 13818 builds upon the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, which allows the United States government to sanction individuals, companies or corporations involved in corruption or human-rights abuses internationally and permits the seizure of their assets in the United States, prohibits them from conducting business with anyone in the US and also bans them from traveling to the U.S.

The U.S. has prepared a list of Turkish entities and individuals that it will target should it decide to impose sanctions on Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government for imprisoning U.S. citizens and employees of its diplomatic mission, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The penalties announced Wednesday, which aim to punish the chiefs of Turkey's ministries of justice and the interior, mark a significant escalation in the recent frictions between the two key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

The Treasury's sanctions, called "designation packages", already include Turkey's justice minister and interior minister.

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Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ms Sanders said: "We've seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong".

"I can confirm that there was such a request by President Trump", an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.

Pastor Andrew Brunson, a USA citizen and a Turkish resident for over two decades, has been arrested as part of Ankara's probe into the 2016 failed military coup.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration will sanction Turkey's Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu over the holding of 50-year-old Andrew Craig Brunson. Relations between the United States and Turkey have plummeted over Brunson, who was in custody for 21 months in a Turkish prison until he was transferred to house arrest last week. "I don't have any assets or money in the USA nor in any other countries".

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Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail if convicted of carrying out activities on behalf of two organisations Turkey deems to be terror groups: the Gulen movement and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Brunson worked in Turkey for 23 years as a pastor before he was detained more than a year ago for an alleged connection to a failed coup against Erdoğan in 2016. Brunson's lawyer, Ismail Cem Halavurt, told the Reuters news agency that he was notified on Tuesday of the court's decision. "We will never tolerate threats from anybody", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu posted on Twitter on Thursday after Trump's statement. "Rule of law is for everyone; no exception".

Turkey's lira has dropped 3 percent since July 26, when Vice President Mike Pence threatened sanctions over the Brunson case. "You give us that one and we'll work with our judiciary and give back yours".

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