What to Know
- Pastor Andrew Brunson is an American pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina
- Brunson was arrested in Turkey in 2016 and was accused of aiding a terror group
- Brunson's arrest and subsequent detainment has been the subject of heated discussions between President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan
The White House is announcing that the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control is imposing sanctions on two Turkish officials over a detained American pastor who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the Trump administration will sanction Turkey's Minister of Justice and Minister of Interior over the holding of 50-year-old Andrew Craig Brunson.
President Trump has repeatedly called for Brunson’s release via Twitter, eventually threatening sanctions against Turkey last week. Vice President Pence echoed Trump’s threats, tweeting “The United States of America is prepared to bring sanctions against Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.”
U.S. & World
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Turkish government refused to release Brunson "after numerous conversations between President Trump and President Erdogan," along with his conversations with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosuglo. "President Trump concluded that these sanctions are the appropriate action," Pompeo said.
Turkey's foreign ministry responded to the sanctions late Wednesday, saying it 'strongly protests' the decision to place sanctions. The ministry also said that the "aggressive attitude" from the U.S. serves "no purpose", and Turkey will "respond likewise."
The administration says Turkey's Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu both played leading roles in the organizations responsible for Brunson's arrest and detention.
The sanctions ordered the two officials blocked from any property under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits them from engaging in any transaction with Americans.
Brunson, an evangelical pastor, was arrested in December 2016 and jailed on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of a terror group without being a member” and espionage. He was recently released to home detention. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years of imprisonment.
Trump has discussed Brunson’s case with Turkish President Recep Erdogan, the White House said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his government won't back down and may "go its own way" if the U.S. imposes sanctions.