Trump administration sanctions Turkish officials over detained American pastor

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Trump administration sanctions Turkish officials over detained American pastor

The sanctions will freeze the U.S. assets of Turkey's minister of justice, Abdulhamit Gul, and its minister of interior, Suleyman Soylu. "As a result, any property or interest in property of both ministers within USA jurisdiction is blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them".

In a statement announcing the sanctions, the US Department of the Treasury said Gul and Soylu are the leaders of organisations that have engaged in "serious human rights abuse".

The Turkish currency dropped to an all-time low against the dollar following the announcement of the sanctions, trading at just over 5 lira against the dollar.

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.

"We believe he's a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey", Sanders said of Brunson.

President Donald Trump had threatened Ankara with "large sanctions" if Brunson is not released.

Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have spiraled into a full-blown crisis over the trial of Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, who was held for 21 months in a Turkish prison until his transfer to house arrest last week - a move Washington dismissed as insufficient.

Pastor Brunson was arrested in Izmir, Turkey, in October 2016 without evidence to support charges of aiding armed terrorist organizations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage that were brought against him.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the sanctions by the Treasury Department would target Turkey's justice and interior ministers, whose agencies she said were responsible for the pastor's arrest and detention.

A Turkish court denied the pastor's appeal on Tuesday. He faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

"No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu posted on Twitter on Thursday after Trump's statement. Ozkan had been detained by Israel on terror-related charges, but was deported this month.

Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" that Brunson's release to house arrest "is just not good enough". And they have had lawmakers' bipartisan backing in the campaign to obtain Brunson's release.

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