United States Sanctions Turkey Officials over Pastor’s Detention
The United States has imposed sanctions on two Turkish government officials over the arrest and continued detention of an American pastor.
The White House announced the imposition of sanctions by the United States Treasury Department on two Turkish officials over a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges.
The sanctions were announced by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders who said the Trump administration would sanction Turkey’s minister of justice and minister of interior over the holding of 50-year-old Pastor, Andrew Craig Brunson.
The United States accused both Turkish officials of playing leading roles in the events leading up to the arrest and detention of the fifty year old pastor.
The man at the centre of a bitter diplomatic row between two NATO allies Pastor Andrew Brunson, led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, before he was arrested on charges of espionage and terror related charges for allegedly helping to facilitate the failed 2016 coup against Turkish strongman, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Pastor Brunson was put under house arrest last week after spending two years in jail over health concerns. United States officials are furious with Turkey that Pastor Brunson was not allowed to leave the country.
Reacting to the threat of sanctions against officials of his government, Prime Minister Erdogan responded defiantly that his government won’t back down and may go its own way if the United States went ahead to impose the sanctions.
Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Erdogan said, “We will not give any credit to this type of threatening language. It is not possible for us to accept that America gets up, especially with an evangelist, Zionist mentality, and uses this kind of threat-filled language.”
Turkish religious minorities also released a joint statement countering the argument of United States Vice President, Mike Pence that Pastor Brunson was being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Turkey Armenian Deputy Patriarch Archbishop Aram Atesyan and Turkey’s Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva signed a declaration among other minority leaders which read, “We practise our faiths and worship according to our traditions freely,” backing up Erdogan’s claim that Turkey did not have the “slightest problem against religious minorities”.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted on charges of acting on behalf of two groups deemed by Turkey to be terrorists; the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen whom Ankara accuses of being the mastermind of the 2016 coup bid as well as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Pastor Brunson is also accused of espionage for political or military purposes; he denies all charges against him while US officials also insist he is innocent of all the charges. A court on Tuesday rejected a petition filed by Brunson’s lawyer asking for his client to be freed. The next hearing on his case is on October 12.