United States hits Turkey with sanctions over American pastor's detention

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He is charged with supporting the group Ankara blames for orchestrating an attempted coup in 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".

The Turkish Lira slid to a record low beyond 5 to the dollar and stocks fell on August 2, after the United States imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers over the trial of a USA pastor accused of backing terrorism.

The Turkish Anadolu Agency tweeted Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu's statement in which he said: "US attempt to impose sanctions on our two ministers will not go unanswered". 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.

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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". He denies the charges, but faces up to 35 years in jail. Trump's sanctions threat came the next day.

On Tuesday, a Turkish court refused to release Brunson from house arrest or lift his travel ban, stating there has been no change in the "strong criminal suspicion" against the pastor.

"We call on the USA administration to turn back from this wrong decision". "As a result, any property or interest in property of both ministers within USA jurisdiction is blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them".

The row over Brunson escalated last week when Pence, like the pastor an evangelical Christian, said Turkey would face "significant sanctions" if this "innocent man of faith" was not freed.

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"President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action", he said.

The move targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu further ratcheted up tensions between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, with Ankara vowing to retaliate over the measures and what it dubbed an "aggressive attitude".

According to the Treasury Department, Wednesday's sanctions were imposed in accordance with an executive order Trump signed in December pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Act, a human rights measure Congress passed in 2016.

Analysts say relations between the United States and Turkey have come under increasing strain in the past two years over the US role in Syria and Turkey's stronger ties with Russian Federation.

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