U.S. sanctioning Turkish officials over detention of American pastor - White House

American pastor Andrew Craig Brunson right escorted by Turkish plainclothes officers arrives at his house in Izmir Turkey

The US pastor was first arrested in October 2016, when Turkey was in the immediate throes of a failed coup attempt crackdown.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the United States. has grown exhausted of waiting for Turkish action on the matter.

The officials targeted under the so-called Global Magnitsky Act are Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

In a statement issued as he was en route to meetings in East Asia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the "Turkish government refused to release Pastor Brunson after numerous conversations between President Trump and President Erdogan, and my conversations with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu". The United States has blamed both for being involved in Brunson's arrest and detention.

Turkey blames the 2016 coup attempt on Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric now living in the United States, and has long suspected that Washington had a hand in it-allegations the United States fiercely denies.

In an extraordinary move directed at government officials of a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation country, the Treasury is freezing U.S. assets belonging to Abdulhamit Gul, the justice minister, and Suleyman Soylu, the interior minister.

As a result of the sanctions, US persons can't engage in transactions with either man and any property of theirs within USA jurisdiction is blocked.

More news: Ex-Trump aide Manafort faces charges in first trial of Russian Federation probe

Washington accused the two ministers of leading government organisations behind "serious human rights abuses".

As Trump threatened Turkey with sanctions on Twitter last week, Erdogan shrugged off the threat, saying the United States is in no position to force Ankara back down.

"It is unacceptable for the U.S.to use a threatening language against Turkey, using an ongoing court case as a pretext", spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.

Mr Brunson has denied charges of espionage, but faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty. Pence has said that "there is no credible evidence against" Brunson. "President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action".

Turkey will show its strength more forcefully from now, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said shortly after Erdogan's remarks.

"There is no doubt that the decision, which disrespectfully intervenes with our judicial system, stands in contrast to the essence of our relations and will seriously damage the constructive efforts made in order to resolve problems between the two countries", the ministry added.

He wrote: "A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected US Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison".

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