The United States imposed sanctions on two top officials in Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's Cabinet on Wednesday fulfilling its pledge to punish Turkey for not releasing a detained American pastor. The sanctions are announced against Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, The Washington Post reported.
"We've seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong, and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the government of Turkey," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.
According to the Treasury Department, the two had played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson.
The measures came less than a week after President Trump promised to "impose large sanctions" on Turkey if Brunson was not immediately freed and allowed to come home, and Vice President Pence warned the Turkish government to "be prepared to face the consequences."
Brunson was accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan in which 250 people were killed. Turkey has waged a two-year effort to have Gulen extradited from the United States.
Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty of the charges, which he denies.
Analysts say relations between the United States and Turkey have come under increasing strain in the past two years over the U.S. role in Syria and Turkey’s stronger ties with Russia.