By Art Moore
Congress is prepared to sanction Turkey if the NATO ally does not release an American missionary jailed since October 2016 on what Washington contends are trumped-up charges.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., explained in a Fox News interview Friday that Andrew Brunson had been doing humanitarian work in the country for 23 years, renewing his visa periodically with no problems. But in October 2016, he was swept up in a crackdown by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a failed coup attempt.
“We need to forcibly respond,” the senator said.
Lankford told Fox News U.S. officials believe Brunson was caught in the crackdown by accident, but now Turkey has accused him of aiding the coup attempt, without any evidence, apparently to gain “some sort of leverage against the United States.”
“What we need to do is impose sanctions against the individual judges, the individual prosecutors, against the individuals and Ankara’s government that are actually holding an American with trumped up charges – for a year with no charges at all,” the senator said.
Lankford said he met with Turkey’s minister of justice in 2016, who had filed no charges at that point. The government took more than a year to press charges.
Brunson, 50, appeared in court on Monday in the first phase of his trial in the Aegean Sea town of Aliaga. In attendance were Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who represents Brunson’s home state of North Carolina, and Sam Brownback, the former Kansas senator and governor, and the current U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom. The next court date is May 7.
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