US Treasury sanctions 2 Turkish officials

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both warned Turkey last week that the United States would issue sanctions unless Turkey frees Brunson, who is now under house arrest after spending a year and a half in prison.

The United States sanctioned Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Wednesday over the country's imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson.

US pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir, Turkey July 25, 2018.

However, he has indicated that he would swap Brunson for Gulen, who was once an ally of the president but now lives in a secluded part of Pennsylvania.

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Erdogan has denied speculation that there had been an agreement to swap Brunson for Turkish citizens being held overseas, particularly 27-year-old Ebru Ozkan.

The sanctions are being prepared under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, which allows the US government to target individuals, companies or other entities involved in corruption or human-rights abuses anywhere in the world. The sanctions against them prohibit US citizens from doing business with both men and block any of their property that rests within American jurisdiction. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the two men played leading roles in his 2016 arrest and later detention. Trump spoke to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the pastor on several occasions, according to Sanders.

Turkey is calling on the United States to reverse its decision to sanction two Turkish government ministers over a detained American pastor and is threatening to retaliate "without delay". "We will never tolerate threats from anybody", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu posted on Twitter on Thursday after Trump's statement.

"It is not possible for us to accept that America gets up, especially with an evangelist, Zionist mentality, and uses this kind of threat-filled language", Erdogan added. "Rule of law is for everyone; no exception".

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Faced with pressure from USA officials previous year, Erdogan suggested Brunson's release may depend on US compliance with one of his own demands: the extradition of elderly Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has repeatedly accused of organizing the 2016 coup from his compound in Pennsylvania, despite Gulen's denials. "There's no credible evidence of any wrongdoing against him", Pence said.

He was moved into house arrest last month for health reasons, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this was not enough.

The Administration's action is an unprecedented escalation against Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally that hosts America's largest foreign stockpile of nuclear weapons.

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