The Turkish government threatened retaliation and demanded the U.S. remove sanctions it imposed on Turkish ministers over the refusal to release Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday saying Turkey “strongly protests” the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s sanctions against Turkey’s interior and justice ministers and threatened to “respond in kind without delay.” The Foreign Ministry also denounced the sanctions as a “disrespectful intervention in our legal system,” though U.S. officials have denounced Turkey’s prosecution and imprisonment of Brunson as baseless. (RELATED: Pence Warns Turkey, U.S. Will Impose Sanctions Unless Pastor Brunson Is Released)
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the sanctions, saying that Brunson’s imprisonment is unjust.
“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,” Sanders said, according to Bloomberg.
The U.S. Treasury said in a Wednesday statement that the two ministers “played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also threatened over Twitter that the U.S. sanctions would “not remain without answer.”
ABD’nin iki Bakanımıza yaptırım uygulamaya kalkışması karşılıksız kalmayacaktır. ABD Yönetimi hukuk dışı taleplerini bu yöntemle elde edemeyeceğini idrak etmediği sürece sorunlarımızı çözemeyiz. https://t.co/0u56aTwsqK
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) August 1, 2018
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul meanwhile brushed off the news of the sanctions imposed against him, saying that all of his assets are in Turkey and that he dreams of owning “a small olive grove” in his hometown, according to The Associated Press.
Turkish authorities arrested Brunson in October 2016, without any formal charges, in the wake of the failed July coup. They later charged him with espionage and accused him of membership in and aiding of armed Islamic terrorist groups, and imprisoned him for nearly two years. The court indicted Brunson based in part on the testimonies of three secret witnesses and dubious allegations. His continued imprisonment, along with statements from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, indicate Erdoğan has been using Brunson as leverage to pressure the U.S. to extradite an Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who he blames for the attempted coup.
The U.S. has refused to extradite the clerics on the basis that no sufficient evidence exists that indicates he had a direct hand in the coup.
Brunson has maintained his innocence and denounced the allegations against him, as have his supporters.
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