Republican lawmakers lauded President Donald Trump and his administration and Democrats offered words of support after Turkish officials released U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson from custody on Friday.
“Thank you President [Trump], [Vice President Mike] Pence and [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] for your work to get Pastor Brunson released,” GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Brunson’s home state, tweeted Friday after news broke that a Turkish judge had decreed that Brunson be freed and sentenced to time served since he had already been in government detention for roughly two years.
Brunson will undergo a medical test in Germany Friday before flying home to North Carolina.
Democrats welcomed the news, but indicated the administration still has unfinished business to help get more American employees out of detention in Turkey.
“I welcome Pastor Brunson’s long overdue release from arbitrary detention in Turkey,” Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia tweeted. But, he added, the “locally employed [State Department] workers held on unfounded charges should also be freed.”
I welcome Pastor Brunson’s long overdue release from arbitrary detention in Turkey. The locally employed State Dept workers held on unfounded charges should also be freed.
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) October 12, 2018
Lawmakers have long criticized the Turkish government for detaining Brunson, an evangelical Presbyterian minister, and sentencing him to three years in prison for his alleged involvement with a political opposition group around the time of the failed coup there in 2016.
“I remain concerned with the troubling pattern of human rights abuses and ongoing religious persecution by Turkish authorities,” GOP Rep. Richard Hudson, a commissioner on the Helsinki Commission, said in a statement Friday. “Pastor Brunson was being held as a political hostage and his charges should have been dropped completely.”
At an international gathering of parliamentarians in Berlin in July, Hudson, representing the U.S. constituency, offered an amendment to a human rights resolution urging the release of Brunson.
The amendment later was adopted at the conference.
The Trump administration for months has advocated for Brunson’s release and backed up its demands by levying economic sanctions on some Turkish government officials and exports, damaging the value of the lira.
The president celebrated Brunson’s release from custody on Twitter Friday.
“PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!” Trump tweeted.
PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2018
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