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U.S. sanctions Turkish justice, interior ministers over pastor's detention
Last Updated: 2018-08-02 07:02 | Xinhua
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The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Wednesday slapped sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior ministers citing their roles in the detention of a U.S. pastor.

The Treasury said in a statement that Turkish Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu had "played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson."

"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "President (Donald) Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately."

Brunson, a 50-year-old Christian pastor, was detained two years ago in Turkey on spying charges, and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty.

He was indicted on charges of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, which Turkey accuses of being behind a coup attempt in 2016 to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A Turkish court ruled last week agreeing to move Brunson from prison to house arrest over health concerns, but it still does not allow him to return to the United States.

As a result of Wednesday's sanctions, any property or interest in property of both Turkish ministers within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

On the same day, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said at a press briefing that Trump has discussed the matter on "several occasions" with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan, and that "he's not happy with Turkey's decision not to release Pastor Brunson."

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has said that the United States will slap significant sanctions on Turkey unless it releases Brunson "immediately."

Turkey responded with a strongly worded statement. Its National Security Council said on Monday that the threatening language of the United States is "unacceptable and disrespectful."

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