December 9, 2018

Trump Administration Slaps Sanctions on Turkey for Imprisoning American Pastor

The Trump administration leveled sanctions against two Turkish officials on August 1 in response to Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor.

Fifty-year-old evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson from North Carolina is being accused by the Turkish government of espionage having ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Gulenist Movement, which the Turkish government considers to be terror organizations. Brunson is currently under house arrest and faces up to 35 years in prison.

The Trump administration is demanding that Turkey free Brunson, claiming that there is no evidence that Brunson committed any wrongdoing. They are sanctioning Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Solu in response.

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

The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded with a statement that they “vehemently protest the sanctions” and that “a reciprocal response will be given without delay to this aggressive attitude which serves no purpose.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed for President Trump to accept a deal in which Turkey exchanges Brunson for businessman Fethullah Gülen, who Erdogan blames for orchestrating the failed 2016 coup attempt against him.

According to professor Efraim Inbar, the president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, Erdogan has allied himself with the likes of Hamas and the Iranian regime and has provided support for ISIS despite claiming that he fights them. Erdogan’s government has also promoted an anti-Semitic TV series that portrays Jews as insidious villains.