Walker Praises Sen. Tillis' Provision in Defense Bill to Punish Turkey for Detainment of NC Pastor Andrew Brunson
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) today released the following statement after Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announced the conference report for the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes his provision that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress reviewing the Turkish government's participation in the F-35 program:
“I am thankful for the efforts of Senator Tillis to add language into the National Defense Authorization Act to suspend the transfer of vital military equipment to Turkey. President Erdogan and Turkey’s acts of aggression, violation of human rights and unjust imprisonment of North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson will not go unpunished. We cannot allow Americans traveling abroad to be falsely accused, detained and abused.”
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According to Tillis' office, "the provision stipulates that the Department of Defense may not deliver any F-35 to Turkey until the report has been submitted to Congress. The provision requires an assessment of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program, including an assessment of the impacts of a significant change in Turkish participation in the F-35 program. This reporting requirement contains language specifying that the Department of Defense should be prepared for all potential outcomes that would result if Turkey completes a purchase of the S-400 from Russia by conducting the assessment of a significant change in Turkish participation in the F-35 program, including a reduction or elimination of such participation."
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. 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."
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."