WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) took to the Senate floor to speak on North Carolina native Andrew Brunson, who has been wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish Government since October 7, 2016. Last month, Pastor Brunson was indicted on bogus charges related to terrorism and espionage, and faces up to 35 years in prison. Senator Tillis has visited Pastor Brunson in Turkey twice, including attending his trial on April 16th. Tillis recently led a bipartisan letter signed by 66 Senators to President Erdogan calling for his release.
Tillis on Pastor Brunson:
“Pastor Andrew Brunson has been in a Turkish prison for 565 days. He was arrested in October of 2016 but didn’t even receive charges until two months ago. I heard from some people that Pastor Brunson was afraid with the charges levied against him, that the American people would read the charges and forget about him and turn their back. That’s why I decided to travel to Turkey and meet him in prison about a month ago to let him know that I have no intention of forgetting him, and have every intention of letting Americans know what is going on with his case.”
Tillis on Brunson’s senseless imprisonment:
“During the coup that occurred in 2016, Pastor Brunson and his wife Norine were in the United States visiting family. The president of Turkey was rounding up thousands of people and putting them in prison, even those who were loosely associated with the coup. Pastor Brunson and his wife traveled back to Turkey at a time when people were rounded up and when they got back they rounded him up too. Why would any reasonable person who saw what was happening in Turkey go back if they were guilty?”
Tillis on his letter to President Erdogan:
“I told Pastor Brunson that the reason I was there was to tell him eye to eye that Congress has his back and this will not go away until the Turkish government releases Pastor Brunson. I told him in that meeting that I would get members of the Senate to sign on to a letter and prove to him that we agree on a bipartisan basis that Pastor Brunson should be set free. Membersknew when they heard the argument they knew they needed to be a voice of the Senate. I wanted to send a very clear message to President Erdogan we are educating members about Pastor Brunson’s situation.”