Walker Fights For Release of NC Pastor Andrew Brunson By Punishing Turkey With Sanctions
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) today introduced the Turkey International Financial Institutions Act, legislation that would direct U.S. representatives at international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), to oppose loans to Turkey, pending the release of U.S. citizens and consular staff.
Turkey is highly dependent on these loans, especially as the largest borrower from the EBRD last year.
“For nearly two years, North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson has been wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish government on false and unfair charges simply for sharing his Christian faith," Walker said. "Today, we draw the line in the sand. President Erdogan must release Brunson now and return him to the U.S. or face crippling sanctions to his already limping nation.”
Walker is introducing the legislation with 20 original cosponsors: Representatives Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Robert Aderholdt (R-Ala.), Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), Dave Brat (R-Va.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), Steve King (R-Iowa), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Randy Weber (R-Texas), and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.). The full text of the legislation can be read here.
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This action is a direct response to the Turkish government's wrongful imprisonment of North Carolina native Andrew Brunson, a pastor who has been serving in Turkey for 23 years, as well as documented human rights abuses, and the "arbitrary arrest and detention under the state of emergency of tens of thousands, including members of parliament and Turkish-national employees of the U.S. Mission to Turkey."
This legislation is the House companion to similar legislation by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.
Today, President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both tweeted their support for Brunson's immediately release, threatening "large sanctions" and "consequences," respectively.
The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
"And to President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the President of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now, or be prepared to face the consequences," Pence said at a Thursday speech at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. "If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free."
In May, Walker was part of a bi-partisan House effort, sending a letter with 153 other Representatives to President Erdogan demanding the release of Brunson. On July 26th, the House passed the Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 5515, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 359-54 vote, which included a provision added by Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress reviewing the Turkish government's participation in the F-35 program.
Brunson, the pastor of Izmir Diriliş (Resurrection) Church in Izmir, Turkey, was detained on October 7, 2016 on charges of "support of a terrorist organization" and "political or military espionage." Brunson was transferred on July 25, 2018 from jail to house arrest while awaiting the next hearing on his case in October 2018.
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), "Pastor Brunson initially was held in a cell with 21 other inmates that was built to hold only eight prisoners. He was transferred in August 2017 to Kiriklar Prison where he was in a cell with two other men who have been accused of being members of the Gülen movement. He spends 24 hours a day in his cell, leaving for one hour weekly for visits. Sometimes he is allowed family visits and the U.S. Embassy sees him regularly."
"The case against Pastor Brunson seems to be based on secret evidence and a secret witness," USCIRF adds. "He has been incarcerated since October 2016 without due process and inadequate physical and psychological support."