Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Thursday called for sanctions against Turkey in response to its detainment of an American pastor.
The two senators condemned the Turkish government for holding pastor Andrew Brunson hostage for the last 18 months, and threatened to implement economic sanctions as part of a Fiscal Year 2019 spending bill if he is not released.
“Turkish officials who participate in the detainment of any innocent American citizen should face international consequences, and the actions against Pastor Brunson, in particular, qualify as hostage-taking,” Lankford and Shaheen said in a statement.
Both Lankford and Shaheen serve on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.
“We desire cooperation and strengthening ties between our countries, but the US Government has a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of its people,” they said.
President Trump, Vice President Pence and other U.S. officials have lobbied Turkish officials in recent weeks to release Brunson, arguing he has been wrongfully imprisoned.
He was detained 18 months ago, accused of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and of having a connection to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who Turkey claims orchestrated the coup attempt.
Brunson, who has been working in Turkey for 23 years as the pastor of the Resurrection Church, has denied the allegations.