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Senator Lankford Urges Turkey to Release Dr. Brunson on Second Anniversary of Imprisonment

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today released the following statement on the two-year anniversary of an American pastor, Dr. Andrew Brunson, unjust imprisonment by the Turkish government:

“Today is a solemn reminder that it has been two full years that a NATO-ally is unjustly holding a US citizen, Dr. Andrew Brunson,” said Lankford. “President Trump and Vice President Pence have been staunch advocates for releasing Dr. Brunson, and I urge them to impose additional sanctions and take other appropriate action if Turkey does not release Dr. Brunson immediately. Our nation prefers to work with Turkey, but we are first committed to protect the safety of Americans.”

Dr. Brunson has been wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish Government since October 7, 2016. In April, Dr. Brunson was indicted on bogus charges related to terrorism and espionage and faces up to 35 years in prison. In July, the Turkish government moved Dr. Brunson from prison to house arrest.

Lankford has continued to fight for Dr. Brunson’s release. In July, he introduced a bill along with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to demand Turkey end the unjust detention of US citizens and would reject international loans to Turkey until the harassment and detention of US citizen ends. The US Treasury Department issued sanctions against Turkey on August 1, 2018.

The same group of Senators also introduced a bill in April 2018 that would stop the transfer of F-35 aircraft if Turkey continues to detain Americans like Pastor Brunson.  Additionally, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) delays the transfer of aircraft until the administration reports to Congress on Turkey, including its involvement in the F-35 program.  The President signed the NDAA into law on August 13, 2018. 

In May, Lankford spoke on the Senate floor to urge Turkey to take a cue from North Korea and release American hostages, including Dr. Brunson.