US Announces Sanctions Against Turkey Over Pastor Arrest

George McgeeAug 02, 2018

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called Brunson's detention "unfair", saying that Trump had spoken with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the pastor.

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

Tensions rise between Turkey and the USA over Andrew Craig Brunson, who was charged by a Turkish court with committing crimes, including spying for terrorist groups.

Under the deal, the United States would have imposed a light fine on state-run Halkbank for evading sanctions on Iran while repatriating the bank's deputy CEO, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, back to Turkey to serve the remainder of a 32-month prison sentence doled out by a U.S. judge in May.

"By focusing it narrowly on Brunson and personalizing it, it weakens the USA position and makes it harder for Turkey to resolve this", said Eissenstat.

The Department of the Treasury, which is in charge of administering financial sanctions, has not announced any new penalties for Turkey over Brunson's detainment.

Vice President Pence has also said the administration would impose sanctions on Turkey if Brunson was not released.

The ministry called the sanctions a "disrespectful intervention in our legal system" that would harm "the constructive efforts toward resolving problems between the two countries".

On Tuesday, the pastor's appeal to end his house arrest was rejected by a Turkish court, prompting a process of sanctions review in Washington.

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.

Amanda Sloat, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former senior State Department official, said while the administration has engaged with Turkey diplomatically to address irritants in the relationship, Congress has taken a harder line and played "bad cop".

"Turkey knows our position well", she said Wednesday.

Ankara on Wednesday threatened to retaliate after Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior ministers over the case of an American pastor as it warned the actions could damage ties.

"Noone dictates Turkey", Turkey's minister of foreign affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, wrote on Twitter.

Brunson was arrested in Izmir, Turkey, in October 2016 and accused of espionage and aiding terrorist organizations.

The White House has not specified what sanctions might be imposed on Turkey.

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