The Turkish government has announced that it will respond “without delay” to fresh sanctions brought against two of its officials by the United States Treasury over the continued imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
In a short statement, the Turkish foreign ministry declared that it “strongly protests” the sanctions against Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, according to AP.
In response to the sanctions, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted, “The U.S. attempt to impose sanctions will not remain without an answer.”
The Turkish foreign ministry called the sanctions a “disrespectful intervention in our legal system” that would harm “the constructive efforts toward resolving problems between the two countries.”
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced Wednesday that it would take firm action against two Turkish officials who were largely responsible for the jailing of the American missionary. Pastor Andrew Brunson remains under house arrest in Turkey after spending almost two years behind bars for trumped-up charges relating to an attempt to overthrow the government.
Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu were both targeted with economic sanctions, according to a statement released by the treasury on Aug. 1, which noted that both individuals “played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson.”
The statement continued: “These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses, and are being targeted pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, ‘Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,’ which builds upon Treasury’s Global Magnitsky Act authorities.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Pastor Brunson’s “unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable.”
“President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately,” he added.
The specific sanctions mean that “any property, or interest in property, of both Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Turkey’s Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them,” according to the press release.
The Treasury declared that Andrew Brunson had “been a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the Government of Turkey.”
One of President Trump’s chief legal advisors, Jay Sekulow, has confirmed that the White House is absolutely committed to getting pastor Andrew Brunson released from Turkey, where he has been imprisoned for almost two years.
“The President of the United States has been incredibly engaged in directly securing his release,” Sekulow told Fox News Tuesday. “He has told me on numerous occasions he is not resting until… Andrew Brunson, a pastor for 23 years in Turkey, is returned to the United States.”
Sekulow, who is also the Chief Counsel at the American Center for Law & Justice, took to Twitter earlier this week to declare that the United States is “engaged in the highest levels of diplomatic relations to bring Pastor Andrew home to America.”