WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), James Lankford (R-OK), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued the following joint statement after a Turkish court in Izmir ordered American citizen Andrew Brunson to remain imprisoned until his trial resumes on October 12:
“Pastor Andrew Brunson has languished in a Turkish prison for the last two years, causing tremendous hardship and heartache for him and his family. He is an innocent man and has been unlawfully detained simply because he is an American pastor who assists all those in need, no matter their ethnicity or religious beliefs. Turkey and the United States are longstanding NATO allies and it is imperative to the interests of both nations that Turkey starts behaving like one. We call for the immediate release of Pastor Brunson and other American citizens currently detained in Turkey, including Serkan Golge. We encourage the Administration to use all the tools at their disposal to ensure the release of these innocent people before Congress is forced to press for even stricter legislative measures that will be difficult to unwind.”
Pastor Andrew Brunson has been wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish Government since October 7, 2016. In April, Pastor Brunson was indicted on bogus charges related to terrorism and espionage, and faces up to 35 years in prison. Senators Tillis, Shaheen, Lankford, and Graham led a bipartisan letter signed by 71 senators to President Erdogan calling for his release. Senator Tillis has visited Turkey twice, including meeting with Pastor Brunson and attending his trial on April 16th. Senators Shaheen and Graham visited Turkey earlier this month and met with Pastor Brunson. The senators also met with President Erdogan and pressed for Pastor Brunson’s release.
In response to Turkey’s actions, Senators Tillis and Shaheen secured a provision in the Senate’s FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove the Government of Turkey from participation in the F-35 program. The provision is in-part based on standalone legislation introduced by Senators Lankford, Tillis, and Shaheen. Shaheen and Lankford also worked with Graham to include targeted sanctions against Turkish officials complicit in the unlawful arrest of Americans, in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill.