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Senator Lankford Denounces Turkish President Erdogan Suggestion of Prisoner Swap

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today made the following statement on Turkish President Erdogan admitting that Turkey is holding American Andrew Brunson hostage in hopes that the US hands over a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania: 

“President Erdogan’s suggestion that the US should make a hostage-style prisoner swap for an innocent American imprisoned in Turkey is appalling and will not be taken seriously. Turkey has long been a US ally, but has chosen to complicate and weaken its relationship with the US and other free nations of the world through its increasingly autocratic policies. The US will not stand idly by as these oppressive tactics target American citizens. Turkish officials responsible for the prolonged, unjust imprisonment of Dr. Andrew Brunson, or any American, should be denied the privilege of entry in the US.”

In December, Lankford visited Turkey to meet with their Ministry of Justice officials to advocate for the release of Dr. Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned since October 2016. In the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2017 Annual Report, Turkey was listed as a Tier 2 country of concern, meaning “nations in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC standard.” Lankford has strongly spoken out about unjust imprisonments of Americans, such as Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian (Iran), Aijalon Gomes (North Korea), Saeed Abedini (Iran), Dr. Andrew Brunson (Turkey), and many others.