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Turkish president blasts ‘economic coup’ amid heightened tensions with US

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Christian Charisius  Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will not "surrender" to the United States under the sanctions imposed by the USA over the detention of an American pastor, accusing Washington of launching an "attempted economic coup" against Ankara.

The lira dropped about 5 percent, to about 6.11 per US dollar, after US President Donald Trump posted a tweet warning the country of more punitive measures over the continued detention in Turkey of US pastor Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor who faces 35 years in prison on charges of espionage and terror-related charges.

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly called for his release, while Erdogan has said the US should respect Turkey's judicial process.

Moody s likewise cited the weakening lira and downgraded Turkey s debt to Ba3, as well as "heightened concerns" for the central bank s independence and "the lack of a clear and credible plan" to address the causes of recent financial troubles.

Supporters of Brunson, who ran a small church in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir, say allegations that he was linked to Kurdish rebels as well as Turkish cleric and alleged coup plotter Fethullah Gulen are absurd.

The fate of Andrew Brunson, charged with terror offenses by a Turkish court, also overshadows the predicament of a Turkish-American scientist from NASA and several Turkish workers for the USA diplomatic mission who were arrested in Turkey.

Fitch Ratings had earlier said the absence of an orthodox monetary policy response to the lira's fall, and the rhetoric of Turkish authorities, had "increased the difficulty of restoring economic stability and sustainability".

A decree by Mr Erdogan doubled Turkish tariffs on imports of United States passenger cars to 120 per cent, alcoholic drinks to 140 per cent and leaf tobacco to 60 per cent. Tariffs were also doubled on goods such as cosmetics, rice and coal.

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The United States sanctioned Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, blaming both for being involved Brunson's arrest and detention.

An important emerging market, Turkey borders Iran, Iraq and Syria and has been mostly pro-Western for decades.

Brunson, who is from North Carolina, was swept up in the aftermath of a failed 2016 coup attempt.

"Some are threatening us with economy, sanctions, exchange rates, interests and inflation". Turkey's dollar bonds fell, while the cost of insuring exposure to Turkish debt rose.

Mr Trump later said in a tweet that the USA "will pay nothing" for Brunson's release, "but we are cutting back on Turkey!" Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the Republican People's Party, said Thursday in Ankara, the capital.

Despite the political tensions, the lira rebounded some 6 percent on Wednesday, strengthening to around 6.0 to the United States dollar.

Turkey has repeatedly criticized the US for not condemning the coup attempt two years ago.

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