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Corker, Menendez Applaud Committee Passage of Bill Demanding Turkey End Unjust Detention of US Citizens

Legislation Requires U.S. to Reject International Loans to Turkey Until Campaign of Harassment and Detention Ends

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today applauded committee passage of their bipartisan legislation demanding Turkey end the unjust detention of U.S. citizens in Turkey, including Pastor Andrew Brunson. The bill, introduced last week along with Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), would restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey until the Turkish government stops the arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens and embassy employees. In 2016, Turkey imprisoned American Pastor Andrew Brunson and indicted him on unsubstantiated charges earlier this year. Brunson was transferred yesterday from jail to house arrest while awaiting the next hearing on his case in October. In April, the senators led a bipartisan group of 66 senators in a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanding Brunson’s release. Other U.S. citizens, locally employed staff of the U.S. embassy, and tens of thousands of Turkish citizens still face unacceptable harassment and human rights violations by the Government of Turkey.

“We never wanted this bill to be necessary, but we warned the Turkish government that there would be consequences if it did not cease its unjust detention and harassment of U.S. citizens and locally employed embassy staff,” said Corker. “Although Pastor Brunson’s transfer from prison to house arrest is a good first step, after 21 months, this development is long past due. We will continue to pressure the Turkish government until we see an end to the harassment and arbitrary detention of all U.S. citizens, including Pastor Brunson, as well as U.S. embassy staff. I want to thank our co-sponsors for working with us on this bill, and I appreciate the support of the committee in this effort.”

“The Turkish government’s decision to move Pastor Brunson from prison to house arrest makes clear that the government has the agency to immediately, unconditionally release him,” said Menendez. “This week’s long overdue development in Pastor Brunson’s case is not enough – the United States also insists on the release of our locally employed staff, and an end to the harassment and targeting of U.S. citizens.  We must continue to move forward with the Turkey International Financial Institutions Act until Turkey ceases the egregious policy of detention and harassment of U.S. citizens on specious grounds for political gain.”

The Turkey International Financial Institutions Act directs the U.S. executive of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to oppose future loans, except for humanitarian purposes, to Turkey by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and EBRD until the administration can certify to Congress that Turkey is “no longer arbitrarily detaining or denying freedom of movement to United States citizens (including dual citizens) or locally employed staff members of the United States mission to Turkey.”

Turkey relies heavily on loans from both the IFC and EBRD. In 2017, Turkey ranked second among all IFC recipients with $927 million in new long-term commitments. Turkey was the largest EBRD borrower in 2017, securing about $1.8 billion in new commitments.

Text of the legislation is available here.