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Trump administration sanctions Turkish officials over Brunson case

by Mickey McLean
Posted 8/01/18, 02:10 pm

UPDATE: The White House announced Wednesday that the Treasury Department is imposing sanctions on two Turkish officials over the NATO ally’s refusal to release American pastor Andrew Brunson. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration will sanction Turkish Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, both of whom played major roles in the arrest and detention of Brunson, who is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges.

Editor’s note: Later Wednesday afternoon, the Turkish government called on the United States to reverse its decision to sanction the officials and threatened to retaliate.

OUR EARLIER REPORT (11:31 a.m.): A Turkish court rejected an appeal Tuesday to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest and refused to lift a travel ban that prevents him from leaving the country, saying there is still a “strong criminal suspicion” against the pastor, according to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. A judge released Brunson on July 25 from prison, placing him under house arrest.

Brunson awaits a continuation of his trial on Oct. 12, when he’ll face espionage and terror-related charges. The U.S. government says the charges have no merit while experts call the accusations “outrageous.”

President Donald Trump last week threatened sanctions against Turkey if the NATO ally doesn’t drop the charges and release Brunson. The Turkish government responded by calling on the United States to respect the country’s judicial process. “It is unacceptable for the United States to use threatening language against Turkey over a continuing judicial case,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said. “Turkey will never give up on its principled stance.”

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Mickey McLean

Mickey is WORLD’s executive editor for audience engagement. He previously was the executive editor for WORLD Digital. Mickey resides in Greensboro, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @MickeyMcLean.

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  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 08/01/2018 01:54 pm

    If sanctions do not work, then maybe smuggling him out should be considered.  Highly risky, to be sure, and a decision not to he made lightly.  But something to consider.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 08/01/2018 04:27 pm

    Smuggling Pastor Brunson out of Turkey could actually have face-saving benefits for Turkish officials:  he’s out of their hair, yet they did not “give in” to the infidel US government. 

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 08/01/2018 09:19 pm

    Good point, OldMike.  And I would add that part of the riskiness of such an operation is getting caught in the process of doing it, which would save even more face for Turkey, and give them even more hostages--or worse.  But it has been done before.  Hopefully we can turn the screws tightly enough to make them release him without taking those steps.  I just do not want him to disappear into the oblivion of Foggy Bottom priorities.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 08/01/2018 05:40 pm

    Too often we have ignored or overlooked the abuses of repressive regimes, because we needed something they have. Sometimes it has been raw resources, sometimes a strategically located military base, or just to (hopefully) keep them from openly joining the Russians or Chinese. 

    I recognize we cannot dictate cultural mores to other sovereign nations. But neither can we allow murderous dictators the cover of being an “ally” of the mighty USA. Too often these deals with the devil come back to bite us:  our support for the Shah of Iran partially led to the current extremist regime; our support for Manuel Noriega possibly facilitated increased shipments of illegal drugs to the US; I believe we very nearly lost the Philippines because of support for Ferdinand Marcos; our support for dubious allies such as Pakistan and Egypt has quite likely allowed funding to be diverted to numerous terrorist groups.

    There are too many such examples to list, but allow me one other:  we provided substantial support to a weak France in  her attempt to regain control of their Southeast Asian colonies following WW2.  Ho Chi Minh had worked with us against the Japanese through the war. He directly asked us not to aid France and we chose to anyway. The results were an enemy we need not have made, our decades-long involvement in the botched attempt to prop up a corrupt but supposedly democratic South Vietnamese Government, and loss of 58,000 American lives plus the lives of soldiers of our allies South Korea and Australia. Then we lost anyway, and possibly, unified Communist VietNam became more repressive than they would have otherwise. 

    Do our government officials study history? It would appear they don’t learn a lot. But I’m thankful President Trump, whether he knows history or not, has the character of a fighter, not an appeaser.