Trump administration sanctions Turkish officials over detained American pastor

Trump administration sanctions Turkish officials over detained American pastor

Last week, Brunson was allowed to leave prison and remain under house arrest, but his request to leave Turkey was denied.

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.

The penalties announced Wednesday, which aim to punish the chiefs of Turkey's ministries of justice and the interior, mark a significant escalation in the recent frictions between the two key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

The Trump administration has been pressuring Turkey for some time to release Brunson.

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 ministry called the sanctions a "disrespectful intervention in our legal system" that would harm "the constructive efforts toward resolving problems between the two countries". Turkey's Foreign Ministry was expected to release a statement later Wednesday. "This has gone on far too long".

The lira, Turkey's currency, fell to record lows amid signs of possible sanctions.

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Nato Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Curtis Scaparrotti arrived in Turkey on Wednesday for a visit aimed at easing tensions between Ankara and Washington as relations soured over the case of a U.S. pastor jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges.

A State Department official was unable to confirm any planned meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, but a lawyer following Brunson's case said high-level contacts were ongoing.

Erdemir said the sanctions underscore how much Erdogan misplayed his hand.

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".

"We will continue on our road that we believe in, without making the slightest concession from our freedom, independence and judicial independence", Erdogan said, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. Investors are nervous about Turkey's fragile economy, and threats of even greater USA economic pressure are making them more skittish.

The White House has not specified what sanctions might be imposed on Turkey. She noted that the announcement coincided with news that the U.S. Federal Reserve plans to tighten monetary policy, which hurts emerging markets like Turkey.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted, "We will not be able to resolve our problems unless the USA administration realizes that it can not reach its unlawful demands through this method".