Turkey says to retaliate against United States decision to impose sanctions over pastor

Demiroren News Agency  AFP  File  STRAndrew Brunson spent almost two years in jail after his initial detention in October 2016

Washington sanctioned Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu over the pastor's detention.

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

Gul on Twitter later dismissed the sanctions, saying that he had no assets overseas.

"These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organisations responsible for implementing Turkey's serious human rights abuses", the US Treasury Department said in a statement Wednesday.

The Turkish lira slid to a record low Wednesday after the White House announced it would sanction the country over the detention of a US pastor, dealing a fresh blow to what has been one of this year's worst-performing currencies. The sanctions, it said in a statement, will "seriously damage" efforts to put already tenuous U.S. -Turkey relations back on track, and the Foreign Ministry called for them to be rescinded.

"Without delay, there will be a response to this aggressive attitude that will not serve any goal", the ministry added.

Nevertheless, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the USA "cannot make Turkey back down with sanctions", and warned the US risks losing "a strong and honest partner like Turkey".

But on Wednesday he vowed Turkey would not give in to threats from the United States, accusing Washington of showing an "evangelist, Zionist mentality".

"A scandalous decision from Washington", said the headline in the pro-government Hurriyet daily. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thought they had a deal to get Brunson's release last month.

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The White House says the omission "was by no means deliberate" and that the transcript has been updated for presidential records. The White House said on Wednesday that President Trump wants to delay a planned follow-up meeting with President Vladimir V.

"If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free", the vice president said.

The court trying Brunson has repeatedly refused to allow him to go free.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for almost two decades, was arrested later that year and charged with complicity in the attempt to overthrow Erdogan's government. The reference was to Turkey's request for extradition of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a onetime Erdogan ally who has lived in the United States as a permanent resident for decades, and whom Turkey charged with orchestrating a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

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".

Turkey is meanwhile furious the United States has failed to extradite Gulen, who lives in rural Pennsylvania, to face trial over the coup bid.

Cavusoglu himself tweeted: Noone dictates Turkey.

"I have neither a tree planted nor one penny in the United States or any other country outside of Turkey", Gul said.

Anticipation of the US sanctions had already helped to send the Turkish lira to an all-time low against the dollar on Wednesday. The currency has lost four percent against the dollar in the last week alone.

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