(CNSNews.com) – Former Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), now the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for continuing to hold American Pastor Andrew Brunson in prison, stating that Erdogan is “not acting like much of an ally.”
Brownback made his remarks on the Aug. 14 edition of “Washington Watch,” hosted by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
As CNSNews.com has reported, Pastor Brunson is an evangelical Christian pastor who had been living in Turkey for more than two decades before being arrested as part of a government crackdown, following a coup that sought to forcibly remove Erdogan from power.
Erdogan is “not acting like much of an ally, and he hasn’t acted like much of an ally for some period of time,” said Brownback. “You know, this is a clear religious freedom case and it’s also a clear case about American, an American citizen, and you wouldn’t expect an ally to treat another ally’s citizen this way.”
The full exchange between Tony Perkins and Ambassador Brownback on Andrew Brunson is printed below:
Tony Perkins: “All right, last week President Trump doubled tariffs on imports of Turkey’s steel and aluminum which contributed to a precipitous fall of the lira. The White House announced today that there is more to come unless Pastor Andrew Brunson is released. As I mentioned yesterday, White House National Security Director John Bolton met with the Turkish Ambassador to the United States. No resolution. What’s next? With us now is Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, our good friend Sam Brownback. Ambassador, welcome back to Washington Watch.
Sam Brownback: “Thanks Tony. Appreciate it.”
Tony Perkins: “Well, you have not slowed down since you’ve taken on the new post as Ambassador of International Religious Freedom, very successful ministerial to advance religious freedom a few weeks ago, but of course this case with Andrew Brunson has remained in the spotlight as the Secretary of State’s been working on, the President’s been working on, the Vice President’s been working on it, you’ve been working on it, National Security Director’s been working on it. Where do we stand? Are we any closer?”
Sam Brownback: “Well, I think we’re closer in that the Administration has taken decisive, aggressive action and I am so thankful for that. I mean, this president has really stepped up and said, look, you’ve got one of ours, an American citizen. You’re holding him illegally. This is wrong. I’ve raised it with you diplomatically. I’ve raised it multiple times. We’ve raised it in a number of different venues. You haven’t acted, so I will. And I think that moves us towards resolution. Now, we’ll see what the Erdogan government and what President Erdogan in Turkey do. And so far he’s not indicated any willingness to make the situation right by sending Pastor Brunson back. Then that means, well, okay, we’re going to escalate it further. The Turkish economy has taken a huge hit off of this. This case, Tony, all along has not made any sense to me -- why the president of Turkey is acting this way. Why the Turkish government is acting this way on Pastor Brunson but they have, and I’m delighted this administration has taken such aggressive action in response.”
Tony Perkins: “I think that’s something that people need to realize: that I know we want to see Pastor Brunson released, but the fact that we have an administration that’s advocating for him, when under the previous administration we saw genocide go unchecked in the Middle East. We saw uh, I mean, a tremendous rise in religious persecution around the globe. This administration taking it head on. Do you think that this could be an excuse from the, from Erdogan, as a means of exiting NATO and moving away from his Western alliances?”
Sam Brownback: “Well, I don’t know. I am not privy to that type of information, but he’s not acting like much of an ally, and he hasn’t acted like much of an ally for some period of time. Uh, you know, this is a clear religious freedom case and it’s also a clear case about an American citizen, and you wouldn’t expect an ally to treat another ally’s citizen this way.”
Tony Perkins: “I met with Ambassador Bolton the week before last, before I left town to discuss the issue. Any insight from his meeting yesterday with the Turkish ambassador?
Sam Brownback: “None other than what I’ve read that you’ve read as well, that Bolton’s saying what everybody else has said that, look, until you let Brunson loose, there’s not much to talk about here. This is a clear case. He’s been held illegally. There’s no case against him, and release him, and we’ve asked quietly, we’ve asked privately, we’ve asked consistently, and you won’t. So we’re going to continue to apply the pressure until you do.”