Washington places sanctions on two Turkish ministers over pastor’s detention
Turks refuse to back down in diplomatic spat with Trump team
Both government ministers in Ankara and Turkish citizens reacted with defiance on Thursday to US sanctions imposed over the detention of an American pastor on spying and terror-related charges.
The White House announced sanctions against two Turkish government ministers late Wednesday for their roles in the prosecution of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor who has been held for nearly two years accused of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of orchestrating a failed military coup attempt in 2016.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu took to Twitter in response. The latter declared that the only property he had in the US was Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric who heads the movement.
“We will not leave him there. We will take him,” he said in an apparent reference to Turkey’s long-standing extradition request. Earlier, Mr Gul posted that he had “not even a single cent” in US assets.
Turkish social media users made #ABDyeBoyunEgmeyecegiz, which translates as “We will not give in to the USA,” the top Twitter trend in Turkey.
Murat Kartal, who runs a tobacco and sweet kiosk in Ankara, summed up the public mood over the sanctions. “The US thinks it can push us around but Turkey does not give into threats,” the 37-year-old said.
“We have shown in Syria and elsewhere that Turkey will follow its own path, regardless of what Trump says.”
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Office worker Hatice Aydemir, 29, echoed the reaction of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to earlier calls for Mr Brunson, 50, to be returned to the US.
“We have a justice system in Turkey and it must be followed. The US and EU are always lecturing us about the rule of law but it seems they have no respect for the rule of law in this country,” she said.
In a rare display of unity, three political parties joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in protesting the sanctions. In a joint statement, they condemned “the US threats with common solidarity and the determination of our nation”.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that sanctions “will not go unanswered”.
The chairman of the Turkey-US Business Council, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, issued a statement calling for the relationship to be returned to “a level worthy of allies and friends.”
The tone of Turkey’s newspapers was less compromising.
“The Trump mafia administration revealed,” the pro-government daily Yeni Akit declared, while the independent Cumhuriyet announced an “Historic break” on its front page.