USA hits Turkey with new sanctions over detained minister

US slaps sanctions over charged pastor Turkey vows reprisal

Turkey rejects US pastor Andrew Brunson's appeal, shrugs off Donald Trump sanctions threat

The US Treasury Department on Wednesday hit Turkey's justice and interior ministers with sanctions over the case of an American pastor being tried on terror charges.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul (above right) and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu (above left) were being targeted for their role in the detention of 50-year-old Andrew Craig Brunson.

"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable", said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Speaking privately to journalists late Saturday, President Erdogan broke his silence on the crisis, saying the US can't use sanctions to make Turkey back down.

Brunson was recently moved from Turkish prison to house arrest.

Other analysts said the sanctions on Turkish government officials would likely harden Turkey's position on other key issues.

Investors in Turkey are also anticipating the possibility of a fine or sanctions against Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, a state-run lender whose former deputy chief executive officer was convicted in a NY court of participating in a scheme to help evade sanctions on Iran.

"We've seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the government of Turkey", she emphasized.

In this case, the Treasury Department showed greater creativity in the use of financial sanctions to target just two senior officials - one of whom said on Twitter he had no USA holdings - in order to send a clear message to a foreign ally.

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.

In a tweet translated by the state-run Anadolu news agency, Cavusoglu also vowed that the "US attempt to impose sanctions on our two ministers will not go unanswered".

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevut Cavusoglu claimed on Wednesday the extraordinary use of financial sanctions against Ankara, which is a United States allied government, would not be left without retaliation as it constitutes a "hostile stance".

His next trial hearing is due on October 12.

Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail over charges that he acted on behalf of two groups viewed as terrorists by Ankara: the movement led by Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). That changed Wednesday when the Trump Administration followed through on its threat to impose sanctions on Turkey for taking an American hostage.

The White House has not specified what sanctions might be imposed on Turkey.

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