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[UPDATE] Ankara defies Trump’s sanction threat

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Turkey on Thursday slammed remarks by US President Donald Trump after he threatened the country with sanctions unless Ankara releases a detained American pastor, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“No one dictates to Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. The rule of law is for everyone, no exceptions,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted.

“Nobody can threaten or command Turkey. The use of threats against Turkey is unacceptable,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy also said on Thursday.

“It is not possible to accept threatening language used towards our country, which is a NATO ally,” said Turkish Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın in a statement on Thursday.

“The US administration, which has never taken a step against FETÖ [a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the Gülen movement] should know that it cannot get any result by threatening Turkey using a matter that is being handled by the independent Turkish judiciary as an excuse,” added Kalın.

“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

Brunson was transferred to house arrest on Wednesday after being detained in the Aegean province of İzmir in December 2016. He was charged with spying for “terrorist groups.”

Earlier, US Vice President Mike Pence in a tweet threatened to impose “significant sanctions on Turkey until this innocent man of faith is free.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in September had called on Washington to swap Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US who Erdoğan and his AKP government accuse of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

Prosecutors accuse Brunson of activities on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as a group inspired by Gülen. The Gülen movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.

Turkish court’s most recent decision came days after six US senators introduced bipartisan legislation to restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey “until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of US citizens.”

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