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U.S. hits Turkey with new sanctions over detained minister

By
Ed Adamczyk
The White House announced new sanctions Wednesday against Turkey for its detention of American minister Andrew Brunson. Photo by Depo Photos/EPA-EFE
The White House announced new sanctions Wednesday against Turkey for its detention of American minister Andrew Brunson. Photo by Depo Photos/EPA-EFE

Aug. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions Wednesday against the Turkish government in response to the detention of an American minister there.

The minister, Andrew Brunson, was detained in October 2016 and accused of spying and participating in a failed military coup against the Turkish government. While negotiations for his release were ongoing, President Donald Trump promised "large sanctions" in a tweet Wednesday.

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"A great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly," Trump wrote. "This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!"

The Treasury's sanctions, called "designation packages," already include Turkey's justice minister and interior minister. Further sanctions could be modeled on those the United States imposed on the Russian government and close associates of President Vladimir Putin.

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The sanctions are being prepared under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, which allows the U.S. government to target individuals, companies or other entities involved in corruption or human-rights abuses. They allow assets seizures, travel bans within the United States and embargoes on business with U.S. entities.

The lira, Turkey's currency, fell to record lows amid signs of possible sanctions. The Borsa Istanbul stock exchange has lost 36 percent of its value this year, a decline second only to Venezuela's.

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Brunson is among several U.S. citizens and Turkish employees of the U.S. embassy under arrest. The State Department has said they're being held as hostages for the purpose of extracting concessions on other points of contention in the Turkey-U.S. relationship.

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A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tukey will retaliate for the new sanctions.

Turkey and the United States are NATO allies, and Congress is considering canceling the transfer of two F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. The planes are the first of Turkey's planned 100-plane fleet of F-35s.

Turkey is also working to purchase Russia's S-400 missile defense system, a plan that's angered U.S. lawmakers and defense officials.

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