Published: Sun, April 22, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Two-thirds of US Senate pushes Turkey to release pastor

Two-thirds of US Senate pushes Turkey to release pastor

Sixty-six USA senators signed a letter released on Friday urging Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to release an American pastor on trial in Turkey on charges he was linked to a group accused of orchestrating a failed military coup.

Washington should take a look at its own actions if it wants the release of jailed American Protestant pastor Andrew Brunson, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster NTV.

Last month, the Second High Penal Court in the Aegean province of Izmir in Turkey accepted an indictment written by the Public Prosecutor's Office, which demanded up to 15 years in prison for crimes in the name of the Gulen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, and up to 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political or military espionage, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The letter, led by Republican Senator Thom Tillis, who represents Brunson's home state of North Carolina, and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, said the Senate backs efforts to strengthen cooperation between USA and Turkish law enforcement.

"Turkish officials who participate in the detainment of any innocent American citizen should face worldwide consequences, and the actions against Pastor Brunson, in particular, qualify as hostage-taking", Lankford and Shaheen said in a statement.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and dozens of U.S. senators have urged Erdogan to release Brunson.

Brunson's trial is one of several legal cases roiling US-Turkish relations. -Turkish relations. The two countries are also at odds over USA support for a Kurdish militia in northern Syria that Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

The top USA diplomat for Europe, Wess Mitchell, tells a House committee that the pastor, Andrew Brunson, is "clearly innocent" of the charges.

The note, signed on Friday by 43 Republicans and 23 Democrats in the upper chamber of the US Congress, describes Andrew Brunson as a "law-abiding American citizen".

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