Turkey vows retaliation against United States sanctions without delay

Demiroren News Agency  AFP  File  STRAndrew Brunson spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016

Demiroren News Agency AFP File STRAndrew Brunson spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016

The Treasury Department will place sanctions on Turkey's minister of justice and minister of interior, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed at a press briefing.

The US will impose sanctions on two Turkish officials over a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges, the White House announced on Wednesday.

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 USA jurisdiction would be blocked. The penalties also bar any USA transactions with the two men.

"Any property or interest in property of both ministers within United States jurisdiction is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them", Sanders said.

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"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable", said Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The pastor, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was released from prison by a Turkish court last month.

Since the failed coup attempt, Turkey has been unsuccessfully lobbying the U.S.to extradite Fethullah Gulen, an elderly cleric living in Pennsylvania who Turkey says masterminded it.

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.

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A Turkish justice ministry spokesman did not immediately comment on the sanctions.

"These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey's serious human rights abuses, and are being targeted pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, 'Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption, ' which builds upon Treasury's Global Magnitsky Act authorities", the Treasury said in a statement. He faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

Turkey has strongly protested the United States and said it will retaliate the sanctions imposed on justice and interior ministers in the same way and without delay.

The sanctions are being prepared under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, which allows the USA government to target individuals, companies or other entities involved in corruption or human-rights abuses. And they have had lawmakers' bipartisan backing in the campaign to obtain Brunson's release.

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Turkey issued a written statement to "protest" the new sanctions.

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