Sunday, 16 December, 2018

USA sanctions two Turkish officials over detention of American pastor

Turkey court rejects appeal for US pastor's release Turkey court rejects appeal for US pastor's release
Jodi Jackson | 02 August, 2018, 13:38

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders told journalists both ministers had "played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson".

Turkey will retaliate against a USA decision to impose sanctions on two senior ministers over the imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Justice Minister Gul said Wednesday he does not own any property or have money outside Turkey. Trump has repeatedly lauded Erdogan as a strong leader and, after their meeting last month in Brussels, praised the Turkish president while criticizing other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders.

"Without delay, there will be a response to this aggressive attitude that will not serve any goal", it said.

Gul on Twitter later dismissed the sanctions, saying that he had no assets overseas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long cited a separation of powers to say that he has no control over his country's judiciary, although in the past he has expressed an interest in trading "pastors" with the United States. "A historic rupture", added the opposition Cumhuriyet.

In a statement issued as he was en route to meetings in East Asia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the "Turkish government refused to release Pastor Brunson after numerous conversations between President Trump and President Erdogan, and my conversations with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, and has plans to meet him next week to demand Brunson's freedom, the State Department said.

A Turkish minister has defiantly mocked US sanctions against him, saying his only asset in the United States is a USA -based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup and wants extradited.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty of the charges, which he denies.

Ankara and Washington are at odds over American support for a Kurdish militia in Syria and the United States is extremely wary over Turkey's growing cooperation with Russia and its deal to buy Russian air defence systems.

Brunson was held for almost two years in prison on terror-related charges before he was moved last week to house arrest.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu tweeted on Thursday that Fethullah Gulen, the cleric whom Turkey accuses of masterminding the 2016 failed coup attempt, was his only property in the United States.

"I have neither a tree planted nor one penny in the USA or any other country outside of Turkey", Gul said.

The lira fell 1.6% against the US dollar Wednesday, bringing its loss for the year to 24%. The currency has lost four percent against the dollar in the last week alone.

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