Senators Bob Corker and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), 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 on Wednesday that Mr. 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 Mr. 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 detention and harassment of American citizens in Turkey cannot continue,” said Senator Corker. “With Turkey continuing to rebuff good faith efforts by Congress and the administration to resolve this, we must take further action until the rights of our citizens and employees in Turkey are respected. Pastor Brunson’s continued imprisonment on what seem to be baseless charges is an outrage that demands we insist on his immediate and unconditional release.”
“The U.S.-Turkey relationship should be strong and based on shared objectives from stability in the Middle East, to NATO’s resilience, and economic prosperity for both of our countries,” said Senator Menendez. “I find it difficult to see how this relationship moves forward, and how we work on these shared objectives, if the Turkish government continues to detain Pastor Brunson as well as locally employed staff, journalists, and civil servants. The United States cannot continue to support loans to Turkey from International Financial Institutions so long as the Turkish government targets and detains U.S. citizens for cynical use as political pawns.”
“The Turkish government should be fully aware that their continued wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Brunson and other innocent American citizens will be met with consequences from Congress,” said Senator Tillis. “Maintaining the longstanding partnership between the United States and Turkey is in the best interest of both nations, and will require President Erdogan and his government to begin treating American citizens in Turkey with the respect and due process rights we would expect from a NATO ally. It is long past time for Pastor Brunson to be released and reunited with his family in America.”
“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 Senator 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.”
“President Erdogan has continued to violate the trust between our two nations by holding Dr. Brunson and other innocent Americans behind bars on fabricated charges,” said Senator Lankford. “Until Turkey begins acting like a NATO ally again, we will continue to pursue measures like sanctions and loan restrictions against them. We desire cooperation and strengthening ties between our countries, but the US Government has a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of its own people.”
“Erdogan continues to undermine Turkey’s democracy, crack down on journalists and violate human rights. And he continues to hold Pastor Brunson on completely baseless charges. This thuggish behavior must not go unchecked,” said Senator Nelson.
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.