WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and James Lankford (R-OK) issued the following joint statement after a Turkish court in Izmir ordered American citizen Andrew Brunson to be moved from prison to house arrest:

“Today’s decision by the Turkish Court system to move Pastor Andrew Brunson from prison to house arrest is a step in the right direction and will help alleviate some of the unacceptable hardship and anguish Pastor Brunson and his family have endured over the last 20 months. The Government of Turkey should now release Pastor Brunson and immediately return him to the United States, an action that would begin to restore the longstanding friendship between our two nations.”

Pastor Andrew Brunson has been wrongfully imprisoned by the Turkish Government since October 7, 2016. In April, Pastor Brunson was indicted on bogus charges related to terrorism and espionage, and faces up to 35 years in prison. Senators Tillis, Shaheen, and Lankford led a bipartisan letter signed by 71 senators to President Erdogan calling for his release. Senator Tillis has visited Turkey twice, including meeting with Pastor Brunson and attending his trial on April 16th. Senator Shaheen visited Turkey earlier this month and met with Pastor Brunson.

 On Monday, Tillis and Shaheen announced that the conference report for the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a provision authored by the senators that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress assessing the Government of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program. The provision is in-part based on standalone legislation Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced with Tillis and Shaheen earlier this year, and is a direct response to the Turkish government’s wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, and Turkey’s troubling intention to purchase the S-400 system from Russia. 

Tillis, Lankford, and Shaheen have continued to fight for Brunson’s release. Last week, they introduced a bill to demand Turkey end the unjust detention of US citizens and would reject international loans to Turkey until the harassment and detention of US citizens ends.