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Treasury Sanctions Two Turkish Officials Over Imprisonment of Andrew Brunson

andrew brunson leaves prison for house arrest

WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department today sanctioned Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu for playing "leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention" of pastor Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina native who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades.

"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 said in its announcement, adding that both Gul and Soylu are targeted "for being the leader of an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse."

As a result of the sanctions, U.S. persons can't engage in transactions with either man and any property of theirs within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked. Gul responded by saying he doesn't have any interests in the U.S.

“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”

Turkey vowed retaliation in a statement issued today by their foreign ministry. “We strongly protest the sanctions announced by the U.S. Treasury Department,” read the written statement. “This aggressive stance that does not serve any interest will be retaliated in the same, without delay."

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted, "We will not be able to resolve our problems unless the U.S. administration realizes that it cannot reach its unlawful demands through this method."

Brunson, who was moved from prison to house arrest last month, faces 35 years in prison after the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan swept up the longtime Turkey resident, along with several other Americans, in his post-coup purges. Since July 15, 2016, the Turkish government has arrested 80,147 people on muddled charges of being tied to Fethullah Gülen, a Pennsylvania-based moderate political foe of Erdoğan. As the regime has raised the topic of seeking Gülen's extradition with the U.S. government, it's believed the Americans have been detained as potential swap leverage.

Brunson and his wife, Norine, raised their family in Turkey and ministered through the Protestant Izmir Resurrection Church in the Aegean coast city. In October 2016, after living in the country for 23 years, they found a note on their door telling them to report to the migration management office for what they thought would be a visit connected to their visa renewal. Instead, officials detained the couple. They did not shut down the church, which has continued operating under one of Brunson's ministry partners, or arrest other members.