The president’s interest and influence are welcome.
The full release of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical minister, and his return to his home in Black Mountain, is long overdue.
Brunson, 50, who has served for 23 years as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, is facing up to 35 years in prison on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and “espionage.”
On Thursday morning President Trump, tweeting from aboard Air Force One, said the U.S. would hit Turkey with “large sanctions” if the country didn’t release a man he called an “innocent man of faith.”
Trump’s words echoed comments by Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke with Brunson on Wednesday.
Brunson had spent 1 1/2 years in a Turkish jail before he was moved to house arrest because of undisclosed “health problems,” the first good news to emerge in this process.
Brunson denies the charges, and his detention casts him as a political prisoner being held in hopes of pressuring the U.S. into extraditing Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for a failed coup attempt in 2016. Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has denied involvement in the coup.
Along with the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, some members of North Carolina’s delegation have been busy trying to free Brunson. Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) introduced legislation in the House on Thursday that asks the International Monetary Fund and others to cut off Turkey’s credit. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is one of several senators who have been urging the Turkish government and twice has traveled with others to Turkey to observe court proceedings and visit Brunson.
Tillis, along with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, recently secured a provision in the Senate’s FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that directs the secretary of defense to submit a plan to Congress to remove the government of Turkey from purchasing American-made F-35 jet fighters.
Cases like this often are resolved by quiet diplomacy, but with Brunson’s case under such high-level scrutiny, perhaps Erdogan – whom Trump has called a friend – will get the message to expedite his release.
The continued vigilance and escalated efforts by our leaders on Brunson’s behalf are encouraging and appreciated.
Better protect voting systems
From an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer:
As we head toward an important mid-term election in November, state elections officials are rushing to upgrade the security of our voting systems. Their sense of urgency is well deserved — there is growing evidence that Russian hackers have stepped up their game since the 2016 presidential elections.