Senator Lankford Urges Turkey to Take Cue from North Korea: Release Americans
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor on the unjust imprisonment of American Dr. Andrew Brunson who has been held hostage in Turkey since October 2016 and currently undergoing a bogus trial. Lankford continues to demand the immediate release of Dr. Brunson. Lankford along with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have taken legislative action to put pressure on Turkey including a bill to prevent the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. Lankford has also called for sanctions on the Turkish officials in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill in response to the wrongful imprisonment of Dr. Brunson.
(2:40-3:37) In 2016, after Dr. Brunson had just been in jail for a few weeks, I went to Turkey and visited with the minister (Minister of Justice) there. The Minister of Justice at that time said we have some information, we’re going to work this out, we’re going to allow the process to go through the court system but we will rapidly go through this process. Now, a year-and-half later we’re finding out there never was any evidence there ever is any issue and we’re still dealing with an American being held hostage by a NATO ally. I thought I would never say this sentence, but I would like to see Turkey follow the example of North Korea and release American hostages they’re holding. Now when Turkey, a NATO ally, is behind North Korea and how they are handling humanitarian issues Turkey has moved to a very bad spot. And it’s not a space that they need to stay.
(3:38-4:27) Turkey has been a friend and an ally. We have worked together against terrorism, we have worked together in economics but I join Senator Tillis in the statement that he just made. I would discourage anyone that I speak to and have to do any business in Turkey, to travel to Turkey at this point because if you’re doing business in Turkey you cannot guarantee the safety of your employees any longer. If you are traveling to Turkey, you cannot be guaranteed safety anymore because of the emergency powers that are currently being used in their legal system. They can sweep up anyone for any accusation, hold them for any length and that is not just theory that is being proven by a pastor being held for a year-and-half in Turkey with false charges. I would highly recommend no one does business in Turkey at this moment.
(4:32-6:17) Now Turkey has not just done this. They have also turned toward Russia—pursuing Russia for their air defense systems. As a NATO ally that is unheard of. To be able to say they are going to have NATO equipment but they’re also going to go to Russia for part of their equipment. That shows the turning of President Erdo?an and a turning of the leadership of the country. Congress is not just going to sit back on this and should not. Senator Shaheen and I have already put language out for the foreign opps bill for Appropriations. That would specifically identify those individuals the judges in the court, the officials that held Dr. Brunson, the officials in the city jail, and in their national government that are specifically holding those individuals to apply sanctions directly to the individuals that are holding an American pastor hostage. Senator Shaheen and Senator Tillis and I have already put forward a piece of legislation blocking Turkey from maintaining or purchasing the F-35. They are a NATO ally and they should have access to that but they’re not acting like a NATO ally and we don’t know where they are going. And it would be a mistake to give some of our best technology to somewhere where we don’t know where it’s going to go and how it’s going to be used in the future. Just this week, that House released their National Defense Authorization Act in the base text of the NDAA…they have a provision that would block all defense sales to Turkey until we get more information about what is happening in the future…That is a reasonable precaution to take in a nation that is rapidly shifting away from democracy and from a free court, free speech, and freedom of religion.