US Treasury sanctions 2 Turkish officials

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The White House announced that the U.S.is imposing sanctions on Turkey's minister of justice and minister of the interior over their country's treatment of the Rev. Andrew Brunson.

According to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, "Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable..."

Aaron Stein a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, told The National that the new sanctions "are obviously a big deal, but these seem calibrated to try and limit damage to the Turkish economy, while still making a point". Now under house arrest, Brunson faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs promised Wednesday to retaliate with "an equivalent response" if the USA does not walk back "this wrong decision". The sanctions against them prohibit USA citizens from doing business with both men and block any of their property that rests within American jurisdiction.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Turkish government refused to release Brunson "after numerous conversations between President Trump and President Erdogan", along with his conversations with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosuglo.

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The two officials, Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, will have their assets and properties under U.S. jurisdiction blocked and Americans will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with them.

The evangelical pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, has lived in Turkey for 23 years and led Izmir Resurrection Church.

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been tense over multiple issues including American support for a Syrian Kurdish militia who Turkey claims are terrorists as well as the failure to extradite US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Further sanctions could be modeled on those the United States imposed on the Russian government and close associates of President Vladimir Putin.

While negotiations for his release were ongoing, President Donald Trump promised "large sanctions" in a tweet Wednesday.

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"No one dictates to Turkey".

Turkey's foreign ministry said it had shared "necessary information" with the United States, but insisted the case should be left with its judiciary.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 14 July phone call to let Ozkan go in a "trade" for Brunson, who has spent 21 months in Turkish detention.

Ankara had proposed a different trade that had been reportedly rejected by Washington: Brunson for Gulen.

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