Senators target Turkey finances over US pastor's 'unjust' detention

Senators target Turkey finances over US pastor's 'unjust' detention
Six US senators introduced legislation to restrict loans from international institutions to Turkey, after a court ordered a US pastor to remain in jail.
2 min read
20 July, 2018
Andrew Brunon has been detained in Turkey for almost two years [Getty]
Six US senators have introduced bipartisan legislation to restrict loans to Turkey "until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of US citizens", a senate committee statement said.

The move to block loans from the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to Turkey, except for humanitarian purposes, follows a Turkish court decision on Wednesday to detain US pastor Andrew Brunson who is being tried on terrorism and spying charges. 

The case has deepened a rift with NATO ally Washington, with President Donald Trump raising the issue in talks with Erdogan over the past year and a half. On Thursday, he tweeted it was a "total disgrace" the pastor was being "held hostage".

Brunson stands accused of helping the group that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as supporting outlawed PKK Kurdish militants - charges he strongly denies. If convicted, Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail. 

The bill, called the Turkey International Financial Institutions Act, directs the institutions to oppose future loans. It said the opposition should continue 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".

In September last year, Erdogan suggested that Turkey could free Brunson if Washington handed over Gulen, raising the idea of a swap deal. 

"They say 'give us the pastor'. You have a preacher (Gulen) there. Give him to us, and we will try (Brunson) and give him back," Erdogan said then. The idea was brushed off by the United States.

Although Washington has always rejected the notion of any kind of bargaining over Brunson, in November and February it quietly dropped all charges against 11 bodyguards of Erdogan accused of attacking protesters during the Turkish leader's visit to Washington last year.

The United States and Turkey have been formal military allies since Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1952.