Senators Fight Back Against Turkey: Release Detainees or Else


Six U.S. Senators introduced a bill on Thursday calling on multiple global financial institutions to prohibit loans or other financial assistance to Turkey until they release detained U.S. citizens.

The bill, formally titled the “Turkey International Financial Institutions Act,” calls on the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund to restrict “any loan or financial or technical assistance to the Government of Turkey or to any entity for a project in Turkey,” except for humanitarian purposes.

The financial cut off cannot end until “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.”

The legislation comes after a Turkish court ruled on Wednesday to keep U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson in jail on dubious terrorism charges until his next hearing on Oct. 12.

Brunson, 50, was jailed in October 2016 along with his wife, and the imprisonment has since strained relations with the NATO ally, as the U.S. Department of State, 66 U.S. senators, and 154 U.S. representatives and President Donald Trump have demanded their release and safe return.

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Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Wednesday that the U.S. will be taking “imminent action” against the bogus charges.

Sekulow’s non-profit, the American Center for Law & Justice, is representing the jailed pastor against charges that he aided two groups the Turkish government deems terrorist organizations.

Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years.

The Senate’s move also follows the back and forth between U.S. Congress and Turkey over Lockheed Martin’s sale of nearly 100 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets to Ankara.

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The Senate passed a defense bill in June with an added bipartisan clause that blocks the transfer of F-35 fighter jets, considered one of the most advanced warplanes in the world, over Turkey’s proposed plan to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, which Pentagon officials say threatens the security and data collection of the F-35.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis advised Congress against removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program in a previously undisclosed letter to the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry. A similar letter was also sent to the Senate Armed Services committee, Bloomberg reported.

“At this time, I oppose removal of Turkey from the F-35,” Mattis wrote.

Mattis told lawmakers that Turkey has invested $1.25 billion into the development of the F-35, and that Turkey is one of the original international partners in the program, and that despite their shared concerns, the sales must proceed.

“If the Turkish supply chain was disrupted today, it would result in an aircraft production break, delaying delivery of 50-75 jets and would take approximately 18-24 months to re-source parts,” made by Turkish companies, he added.

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The Turkey International Financial Institutions Act was proposed by Republican senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Bill Nelson of Florida and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

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