Turkish court rejects appeal for U.S. pastor’s release

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

The U.S. will impose sanctions on two Turkish officials over a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges, the White House announced Wednesday.

The move targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu further ratcheted up tensions between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and comes after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted his government would not give in to Washington's threats.

As a result of the sanctions, any property or interest in property of the two Turkish officials within USA jurisdiction will be blocked, and US persons will be generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them, the Treasury Department said.

"Any property or interest in property of both ministers within United States jurisdiction is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them", Sanders said. Brunson, who was recently released to home detention, was charged with committing crimes, including spying for the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist group by both the United States and Turkey as well as the EU.

Andrew Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was placed under house arrest last week after almost two years in jail on charges of espionage and supporting terror groups.

Brunson was accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the USA -based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the 2016 coup attempt against President Tayyip Erdogan in which 250 people were killed.

Reuters separately reported on Tuesday that a Turkish court rejected Brunson's appeal to be released from house arrest while he stands trial.

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"We call on the U.S. administration to walk back from this wrong decision", the Turkish foreign ministry said. He was charged with being involved in a failed coup that year and with colluding with Kurdish militants.

Gul, Turkey's justice minister, played down the direct effects of the sanctions. Ankara blames Gulen for the coup attempt, while the cleric denies involvement.

TRT World was joined by Jon Brain in Washington DC and Andrew Hopkins in Ankara for the latest.

"We've seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong, and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey", Sanders said.

He added, "President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately".

The Turkish lira fell to 5.0 against the dollar after the sanctions announcement.

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