Ankara (AFP) – The Turkish lira on Wednesday slumped to record lows of 5.0 against the dollar as the US hit Turkey’s justice and interior ministers with sanctions over the case of an American pastor on trial for terror-related charges.
The lira lost over 1.6 percent of its value against the greenback following Washington’s move in response to Turkey keeping Pastor Andrew Brunson under house arrest.
Before his move home last week, Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, had spent nearly two years in jail.
After reports that the US would sanction individuals over the case, the lira hit a record low of 5.01 against the dollar, before rallying slightly to 4.9.
It then hit 5.0 again after the official announcement from the White House.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Brunson was a “victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey” as she announced sanctions.
“At the president’s direction, the Department of the Treasury is sanctioning Turkey’s minister of justice and minister of interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson,” she told journalists.
The sanctions freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.
US President Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence had threatened Turkey with “large sanctions” last week if Brunson was not immediately released.
His lawyer’s appeal for his release was rejected this week.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail on charges of carrying out activities on behalf of two terror organisations — the group led by US-based Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 2016 failed coup and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The pastor denies the charges while US officials have publicly insisted that Brunson is innocent and should be freed.
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