Today, the Lantos Foundation released a statement on the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkish imprisonment and called on the US to advocate for Erdoğan’s targeted communities.
CONCORD, NH – The Lantos Foundation welcomes the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson and hopes that it will be a harbinger of further positive steps for Turkey in the near future. The charges against Pastor Brunson were completely lacking in credibility from the very beginning, as was clear to all fair and impartial observers. This earnest man of God was unjustly caught up in President Erdoğan’s outrageous lashing out at perceived enemies in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt.
Since 2016, as many as 160,000 people in Turkey have been arrested, detained, or fired from their jobs - including 245 imprisoned journalists and more than 100 additional journalists who have had arrest warrants issued against them. This ongoing purge has been part of a systematic degradation of democracy and human rights in Turkey and growing authoritarianism on the part of Mr. Erdoğan.
Turkey also continues to hold an estimated twenty Turkish-Americans and three Turkish employees of the American consular mission in Turkey who are being unjustly detained for no credible reason.
Lantos Foundation President Katrina Lantos Swett said:
“The release of Pastor Brunson is both an answer to prayers and a vindication of the importance of standing up for religious freedom, human rights, and the rule of law; both at home and abroad. It is important that in the midst of our celebration of Pastor Brunson’s well deserved freedom that we not forget the tens of thousands of other victims of Erdoğan’s brutal and lawless crackdown on Turkish society. The US government cannot declare victory and move on. We must forcefully advocate on behalf of other targeted communities, whether they be minority Christians, Jews, Gulenist Muslims, peaceful Kurds, journalists, academicians, civil society defenders, or others. Turkey is a crucial NATO ally and this should strengthen our determination to hold the Erdoğan government accountable for its widespread violation of international human rights law.”