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.
The US Treasury is imposing sanctions against two cabinet-level Turkish officials over the continued detention of a US pastor by the Turkish authorities, the White House spokesperson said.
‘Pastor’ Andrew Brunson, a US citizen and a Turkish resident for over two decades, has been arrested as part of Ankara’s probe into the 2016 failed military coup. He is facing up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of supporting the coup.
The two officials targeted by sanctions “played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention” of Brunson, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement.
Treasury accused the two of “implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses.” All their property within US jurisdiction has been blocked, and US citizens are also “generally prohibited from engaging in transactions” with the two Turkish officials.
The Trump administration has been pressuring Turkey for some time to release Brunson. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his American counterpart of waging “psychological warfare” against Turkey over the pastor and warned that the US may lose “a strong and sincere ally” in Turkey.
As Trump threatened Turkey with sanctions on Twitter last week, Erdogan shrugged off the threat, saying the US is in no position to force Ankara to do anything.
“No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted.
On Wednesday, Cavusoglu responded to the sanctions by tweeting that they “won’t be left without retaliation.”