US slaps sanctions on Turkish officials over detaining of American pastor

American pastor Andrew Craig Brunson right escorted by Turkish plainclothes officers arrives at his house in Izmir Turkey

The officials targeted under the so-called Global Magnitsky Act are Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. "These are two sniper bullets that have been fired from the USA financial system".

A Turkish court rejected an appeal on Tuesday for an American pastor to be released from house arrest during his trial on terrorism charges, his lawyer said, in a case which has raised the threat of US sanctions against Ankara.

The sanctions are being prepared under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, which allows the US government to target individuals, companies or other entities involved in corruption or human-rights abuses anywhere in the world.

Last week President Trump warned Turkey it would face "large sanctions" if it did not release Mr Brunson immediately.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his American counterpart of waging "psychological warfare" against Turkey over the pastor and warned that the United States may lose "a strong and honest ally" in Turkey. "President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action". Pompeo plans to meet Cavusoglu at a summit in Singapore this weekend.

The Turkish foreign ministry has previously described USA demands to release Mr Brunson as "unacceptable". "This aggressive stance that does not serve any interest will be retaliated in the same, without delay".

The Turkish leader previously connected Brunson's return to the U.S.to the extradition of Fethullah Gulen.

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"It was surprising even for those of us who follow bilateral relations closely".

Relations between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies were already strained by Washington's support for a Syrian Kurdish militia and the failure to extradite the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 failed coup. The two countries have also been at odds over the war in Syria, what role Kurdish fighters should have there, and how much to economically contain Iran.

"You have a pastor too", Erdogan said then". United States officials said at the time that it was not enough and threatened to take measures against Turkey.

"It is unacceptable for the U.S.to use a threatening language against Turkey, using an ongoing court case as a pretext", spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said. The State Department has said they're being held as hostages for the objective of extracting concessions on other points of contention in the Turkey-U.S. relationship. "But it's not going to have a cratering impact on the Turkish economy".

The Turkish lira plummeted to a new low after the sanctions were announced. Investors are nervous about Turkey's fragile economy, and threats of even greater US economic pressure are making them more skittish.

"Turkey knows our position well", she said Wednesday. However, the USA and Turkey have a long history of military collaboration.

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