Turkey, US in diplomatic row after ministers’ sanctions

The White House announced new sanctions Wednesday against Turkey for its detention of American minister Andrew Brunson

The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on Turkey's interior and justice ministers, aimed at pressuring its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally into releasing a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges.

Washington then on Wednesday slapped sanctions on Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

The US blames them for the arrest and imprisonment of Andrew Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the city of Izmir.

Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail over charges that he acted on behalf of two groups viewed as terrorists by Ankara: the movement led by Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters: "We've seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong, and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the government of Turkey".

Justice Minister Gul said Wednesday he does not own any property or have money outside Turkey.

"The aggressive attitude of the USA serves no goal", it said in a statement, adding that Turkey would reciprocate "without delay".

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"We call on the USA administration to turn back from this wrong decision".

The measures came less than a week after President Trump promised to "impose large sanctions" on Turkey if Brunson was not immediately freed and allowed to come home, and Vice President Pence warned the Turkish government to "be prepared to face the consequences". Relations between the United States and Turkey have plummeted over Brunson, who was in custody for 21 months in a Turkish prison until he was transferred to house arrest last week.

Pompeo said Trump had decided that sanctions were "the appropriate action".

But on Wednesday he vowed Turkey would not give in to threats from the United States, accusing Washington of showing an "evangelist, Zionist mentality". He was accused of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party and US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is alleged by the Turkish government to have been behind much of the unrest.

Ankara meanwhile upset Washington by imprisoning two Turkish employees of American consulates in the country and holding another under house arrest on terror-related charges.

Trump's executive order was used this summer to sanction people in Nicaragua deemed responsible for human rights abuses and corruption.

The Turkish lira fell to a record low of 5.0 against the dollar after the sanctions announcement, losing more than 1.6 per cent of its value.

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