U.S. Sanctions Turkey Over Continued Detention Of American Pastor
Following the continued detention of American pastor, Andrew Brunson, the US has slammed Turkey with an imposed sanctions which Turkey has demanded an immediate reversal.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu said the Trump administration’s decision was “incompatible with the most simple diplomatic courtesy and mutual respect” and risked regional instability.
Relations between the US and Turkey have nosedived after Brunson, 50, was arrested in 2016 on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and espionage.
Brunson was recently released from prison but was put under house arrest and still faces a sentence of up to 35 years if he is convicted at his ongoing trial. The evangelical pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has lived in western Turkey for 23 years and led the Izmir Resurrection Church.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained that the sanctions were imposed after Ankara ignored appeals for Brunson’s release.
“We’ve seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong, and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey.
In a tweet last week, President Trump threatened that Turkey will face large sanctions if Brunson is not released.
“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Vice-president Pence has also issued out series of strongly worded tweets, saying Turkey must act immediately or “be prepared to face the consequences”.
“To President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message, on behalf of the President of the United States of America. Release Pastor Andrew Brunson NOW or be prepared to face the consequences. #IRFMinisterial”
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 26, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The Turkish government refused to release Pastor Brunson after numerous conversations between President Trump and President [Tayyip] Erdogan, and my conversations with Foreign Minister [Mevlut] Cavusoglu. President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action.”
The Treasury Department sanctions target Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, whose departments were blamed by Sanders for Brunson’s arrest. Americans will be prohibited from doing business with them.
Gul shrugged off the decision, writing on Twitter that he had no assets outside Turkey.
President Erdogan has also warned that Turkey would seek international arbitration if the U.S. refuses to deliver F-35 fighter jets in retaliation for Brunson’s detention.
Turkey’s embattled lira currency, which has already lost one-fifth of its value this year, slumped further against the dollar in early trading on Thursday. Both countries are also at odds over the Syrian war, Turkey’s plan to buy missile defense systems from Russia and the U.S. conviction of a Turkish state bank executive on Iran sanctions-busting charges this year.
Pastor Andrew Brunson is a long-term resident in Turkey. He lived with his family – wife and three children – while working as the pastor of the small Izmir Resurrection Church, which had a congregation of about two dozen Protestants.
He’s been accused by authorities of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulenist movement, which Turkey blames for a 2016 failed coup.
Mr Brunson has however denied all charges of espionage.