On July 15, 2016, the Turkish military devised a plan to overthrow the Turkish government in order to protest what it thought was an abuse of power by President Erdogan. As it unfolded worldwide, in real time, in front of millions on television, it lasted but a few hours before the coup was defeated. 241 people died and more than 2,000 were injured. Shortly after the failed coup, President Erdogan began arresting countless individuals who either took part in the coup or were suspected of helping those who did, with one of those people being American pastor, Andrew Brunson.
In October of 2016, Pastor Brunson and his wife were arrested by Turkish officials. At the time, they were given no reason for their arrest. After 13 days, Pastor Brunson’s wife was released, but he was not. According to Turkish officials, Pastor Brunson stood accused of helping those who attempted to overthrow the government as well as of having ties to terrorist organizations. What evidence did the Turkish government have to prove these accusations? None.
While imprisoned, members of Pastor Brunson’s congregation attempted to bring him food and clothing, but were denied. An attorney came to visit Pastor Brunson, but was also denied. U.S. consulate officials requested to meet with Pastor Brunson, but were denied. These actions, some of which violate international treaties, are unacceptable and something the U.S. should not tolerate from a NATO ally.
President Trump, a strong advocate for religious freedom, has been working diligently to free Pastor Brunson. Earlier in August, he imposed financial sanctions on high-level government officials and raised tariffs on metal. This response came after months of Turkey’s continued refusal to release Pastor Brunson.
In July, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate that would restrict international loans to financial institutions in Turkey until the Turkish government releases Pastor Brunson. If passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate, and signed into law by the president, this bill would have major economic impacts on Turkey, given Turkey’s reliance on international loans from both the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation.
It’s time Turkey acts like an ally and releases this good Christian man. His wife and children have gone almost two years without their husband and father.