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Shaheen, Bipartisan Coalition of Senators, Introduce 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, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced bipartisan legislation with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), Lead Democrat Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and a coalition of Senators including Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of United States citizens. In 2016, Turkey imprisoned American Pastor Andrew Brunson and indicted him on unsubstantiated charges earlier this year. A Turkish court ruled Wednesday that Brunson will remain in custody until 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. 

“The continued detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson, other American citizens and embassy staff is both inhumane and unwarranted, and is causing tremendous pain to their families and loved ones,” said Shaheen. “Turkish officials can end this now by releasing the detained Americans. The United States and Turkey are NATO allies, and we should be working together like allies. But the unjustified imprisonment of American citizens cannot stand, so it is imperative that Congress take action to demand their freedom, which is precisely what this bill will do.”   

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. 

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to secure Pastor Brunson’s freedom and raise the cases of other Americans and U.S. employees arrested. In response to Turkey’s actions, Senators Shaheen and Tillis secured a provision in the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove the Government of Turkey from participation in the F-35 program. The provision is in-part based on standalone legislation introduced by Senators Shaheen, Lankford, and Tillis. Shaheen and Lankford also worked with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to include targeted sanctions against Turkish officials complicit in the unlawful arrest of Americans in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. Senator Shaheen visited Turkey earlier this month and met with Pastor Brunson as well as President Erdogan, whom the Senator pressed for Pastor Brunson’s release. 

Text of the legislation is available here.