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Treasury targets Turkish officials with sanctions over detained US pastor
The Treasury Department on Wednesday targeted two Turkish government officials with financial sanctions over the country's refusal to release a detained American pastor.
The agency blocked Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu from the U.S. financial system and froze any of their assets subject to U.S jurisdiction. U.S. persons and businesses are also banned from any financial transactions with Gul and Soylu.
Gul and Soylu were targeted for their roles in the detainment of Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor who had been imprisoned by the Turkish government on charges of terrorism and espionage.
"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately."
Trump and Vice President Pence said last week that Turkey would face sanctions if they did not allow Brunson to return to the U.S. Brunson had been released from jail and placed in house arrest last month, but a Turkish court on Tuesday blocked his attempt to come back to the U.S.
"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being," Trump tweeted Thursday. "He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!"
Brunson had spent 23 years as a pastor in Turkey before he was detained more than a year ago. The Turkish government alleged that he was involved in a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan in 2016.
Brunson was accused of aiding the opposition Kurdistan Workers' Party and Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric who Erdoğan claims orchestrated the failed coup.
Gul and Soylu were targeted under a 2017 executive order empowering the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on foreign nationals who've allegedly supported human rights abuses.