Shaheen Meets with American Held in Turkey, Pastor Andrew Brunson & Urges President Erdogan to Release Brunson & Others in Face-to-Face Meeting
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, traveled to Turkey this week with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). There, she met with Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American who has been imprisoned in Turkey since October 2016. In March of this year, Brunson was indicted on unsubstantiated charges related to terrorism and espionage. He faces up to 35 years in prison. On Friday, Shaheen personally appealed to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for Brunson’s release as well as the release of other American citizens and U.S. Embassy staff detained in Turkey. This was the first foreign delegation President Erdogan has met with since his re-election.
“Pastor Brunson has been unjustly imprisoned and kept away from his family for well over one year. The opportunity to see him and his wife, Norine, and to appeal directly to President Erdogan were my main objectives on this trip,” said Shaheen. “Any time an American is wrongfully detained anywhere by a foreign government, it is our country’s duty to do everything we can to bring him or her home. I am confident that the Turkish President understands this, and I appreciated the opportunity to raise my concerns. The US-Turkey relationship is of strategic importance to both countries. Addressing the imprisonment of American citizens and embassy employees is critical to putting the relationship on a better, more sustainable path.”
Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress with Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and James Lankford (R-OK) to secure Pastor Brunson’s freedom and raise the cases of other Americans and U.S. employees arrested. The senators introduced legislation in April that would restrict the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey. Shaheen and Tillis successfully included this legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that recently passed the Senate.
Earlier this year, Senator Shaheen re-established the Senate NATO Observer Group with Senator Tillis, and currently serves as a co-chair.