Turkish opposition head calls US sanctions ‘not right’

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader on Thursday criticized the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on two Turkish ministers, terming the move “not right”.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Kilicdaroglu called for talks with the U.S. to resolve issues, reminding that Turkey and the U.S. were allies.

He urged “healthy discussions” to resolve bilateral issues. He also said Turkey sees Fetullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the U.S., as the mastermind of July 2016 defeated coup.

The CHP leader also recalled the ‘tit for tat’ rule in Turkish foreign policy.

“What we need to do is to issue a sanctions list for two ministers in the U.S. just like they did to us,” Kilicdaroglu said. “We are expecting that from our government. This issue needs to be followed carefully.”

He said the CHP was among four political parties in Turkey that protested against the sanctions move early Thursday.

“We say no to the U.S. threats with common solidarity and determination of our nation,” said the Justice and Development (AK) Party, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Good (IYI) Party in a joint statement.

Previously, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the U.S. was imposing sanctions on Turkey’s ministers of justice and interior for not releasing American Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, who faces terrorism charges in Turkey.

Sanders said the U.S. would block the properties, if any, of the two ministers.

In a written statement published Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department said Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu “played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson”.

According to U.S. law, those mentioned on the sanctions list will have any of their assets and properties under U.S. jurisdiction blocked and American businesses and individuals will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with them.

– Brunson indictment

Brunson has been charged with spying for the PKK — a designated terrorist group in the U.S. and Turkey — and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the defeated July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey which martyred 251 people and injured thousands.

The American pastor was arrested in October 2016. The Izmir 5th Penal Court of Peace on Dec. 9 of that year ordered Brunson’s continued detention pending trial.

On July 25, the 2nd High Criminal Court in Izmir decided to turn Brunson’s detention into house arrest in light of his health problems.

Izmir Public Prosecutor Berkant Karakaya’s indictment stated that Brunson acted in accordance with terrorist groups’ strategies under the pretext of being a man of religion. It added that Brunson knew the aims of such groups and yet still willingly cooperated with them.

In the indictment, Brunson was mentioned as getting in touch with FETO’s high-ranking members using their aliases. He was accused of determining his strategies by getting in touch with FETO fugitives Bekir Baz, his assistant Murat Safa and Amnesty International’s Turkey branch head Taner Kilic, who is awaiting trial in prison for “being a member of an armed terrorist group”.

In the technical investigation, 293 close GSM signals were detected from Brunson with fugitive Bekir Baz.

The indictment also mentions a message Brunson sent to a U.S. soldier expressing sadness over the July 2016 defeated coup.

The text message said: “We were expecting an earthquake to shake the Turkish nation. The conditions rturning to Jesus were met now. Many Turks relied on the military like in the past, but this time it was too late. Another blow after the coup attempt. I think the situation is going to get worse. We’ll win at the end.”