Senator Calls for Release of American Pastor in Turkey

This week in an article posted on, U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) recounted that he learned of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey as he was walking into an airport in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He also recalled the wave of violence in Turkey over the last year, not the least of which was a violent coup attempt, and stated, “We need to help this long-term NATO ally.” However, he also called on Turkey, in the midst of these challenges, not to forget “core values of justice, religious freedom and due process.”

In particular, Senator Lankford highlighted the unjust incarceration of Andrew Brunson, a U.S. citizen who has been pastoring churches in Turkey for more than two decades. Pastor Brunson was arrested on October 7, held without charges for months, and then kept in prison after being accused, without compelling evidence, of being a member of a terrorist group.

In his article, Senator Lankford declared, “[R]eligious freedom is more than just an American right; it is a basic human right that should be embraced around the world.” He warned Turkey that it should tread carefully in how it treats this American pastor. In particular, he said he would not support any congressionally reviewed trade deals involving Turkey until it shows commitment to religious freedom once again.

Senator Lankford concluded, “A pastor and humanitarian aid worker for 20 years is not a threat to Turkey. But Turkey’s shift away from religious freedom is a threat to the freedoms of their people, millions of international tourists, and the economic future of the region.”

Learn more about the situation of Pastor Brunson here from the American Center for Law & Justice, which is representing his family.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: January 20, 2017


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