The United States Treasury Department is imposing sanctions on two Turkish officials over detention of a US pastor.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made the announcement on Wednesday, calling Andrew Brunson’s incarceration “unfair and unjust.”
“We’ve seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong,” she said.
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.”
The two officials, Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, will have their assets and properties under US jurisdiction blocked and Americans will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with them.
“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.
Turkey to retaliate
Turkey issued a written statement to “protest” the new sanctions.
“We strongly protest the sanctions announced by the US Treasury Department,” it read. “This aggressive stance that does not serve any interest will be retaliated in the same, without delay,”
According to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, “Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable… President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”
The sanctions come before a scheduled meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Singapore on Friday.
“The Turkish government refused to release Pastor Brunson after numerous conversations between President Trump and President Erdogan, and my conversations with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu. President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action,” Pompeo said.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has also called the detention “unjust,” adding, “Turkey knows our position well. This has gone on far too long.”
Speaking to reporters in the Turkish capital Ankara earlier in the day, Erdogan asserted that Turkey does not “give credit for using such threatening language.”