United States sanctioning Turkish officials over detention of American pastor - White House

BERLIN GERMANY- JULY 15 Pro Erdogan Berlin Turks wave Turkish flags and one gives the hand sign of the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves organization as they gather in front of the Turkish Embassy to commemorate the first anniversary of the failed coup

The administration of President Donald Trump sanctioned two top Turkish officials on August 1 for their roles in the detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson.

The US has imposed sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior ministers over the continued detention of pastor Andrew Brunson.

One proposed bill would restrict loans from global financial institutions to Turkey until Ankara stops the "arbitrary arrest and detention" of USA citizens and consular staff. Language that calls for the release of Mr Brunson and others has also been included in a defence authorisation bill.

Mr Brunson has been in a Turkish jail since October 2016 for allegedly being a threat to national security. The move angered officials in the Trump Administration, particularly Vice President Mike Pence, who believed he should have been released.

"We've seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong", said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

President Donald Trump warned last week that he might impose sanctions against Turkey, a key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, for its treatment of Andrew Craig Brunson.

She added: "Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by phone on August 1 to once again address the unjust detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson and other USA citizens and diplomatic staff".

Pence said last week that Brunson was "a victim of religious persecution" but Erdogan insisted that Turkey did not have the "slightest problem with religious minorities". We will never tolerate threats from anybody.

Brunson was recently put under house arrest after 21 months in jail due to deteriorating health. The State Department has said they're being held as hostages for the objective of extracting concessions on other points of contention in the Turkey-U.S. relationship.

The Turkish lira, which has been in decline against the dollar for most of 2018, fell to a record low of five per dollar on Wednesday after dropping 1.7 percent of its value following the sanctions' announcement.

Tensions rise between Turkey and the U.S. over Andrew Craig Brunson, who was charged by a Turkish court with committing crimes, including spying for terrorist groups.

Imposing sanctions on senior government officials of an allied country is a major escalation and a reflection of just how dire relations between Washington and Ankara have grown in the two years since the coup attempt in Turkey.

When that failed to materialize, they began ramping up pressure on the Turkish government, aides said.

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.

Brunson's supporters maintain that the charges against him were fabricated.

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

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