USA hits Turkey with new sanctions over detained minister

The minister Andrew Brunson was detained in October 2016 and accused of spying and participating in a failed military coup against the Turkish government

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

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the United States. has grown exhausted of waiting for Turkish action on the matter. He faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

In a news conference on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stressed that the administration found Brunson's imprisonment to be "unfair and unjust" and that it saw "no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his government won't back down and may "go its own way" if the United States imposes sanctions.

Since the failed coup attempt, Turkey has been unsuccessfully lobbying the extradite Fethullah Gulen, an elderly cleric living in Pennsylvania who Turkey says masterminded it.

She added that the two Turkish ministers had both played "leading roles" in the arrest of the USA pastor. The sanctions against them prohibit US citizens from doing business with both men and block any of their property that rests within American jurisdiction.

In a statement announcing the sanctions, the US Department of the Treasury said Gul and Soylu are the leaders of organisations that have engaged in "serious human rights abuse".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would meet with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss Brunson and the sanctions next week.

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Late on Wednesday, Turkey's foreign ministry said it will retaliate against Washington's decision, calling it a "hostile stance".

Analysts say relations between the United States and Turkey have come under increasing strain in the past two years over the US role in Syria and Turkey's stronger ties with Russian Federation.

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

Pompeo said Trump had decided that sanctions were "the appropriate action". Although the woman was released and deported to Istanbul, the Turkish court hearing Brunson's case agreed last week only to allow him to leave prison for house arrest while his trial continued.

On all those issues, Turkey has worked at cross purposes with the United States in recent years and is only more likely to become an irritant more than an ally after the sanctions escalation.

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". Trump has repeatedly lauded Erdogan as a strong leader and, after their meeting last month in Brussels, praised the Turkish president while criticizing other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders.

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