On The Helsinki Commission and Andrew Brunson

The U.S. Congress’ Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) held a hearing this morning on American-Turkish relations (the hearing starts around the 14:00 minute mark), with a focus on the imprisonment of American and EPC pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held on fabricated charges since last year’s failed coup. Brunson’s daughter Jacqueline Furnari was one of the testifying witnesses.

I am happy to see that both Congress and the State Department are vigorously maintaining Brunson’s innocence and are continuing to protest on his behalf to the Turkish government. The State Department witness at the hearing repeated the description that the charges against Brunson are outlandish.

The Commission expressed the view that though Turkey, as a NATO ally and a friendly nation with the right to govern itself, to ignore its declining human rights records and the ongoing collapse of Turkish rule of law happens at American peril. Senator Ben Cardin stated, “Our dilemma is that Turkey is an extremely important strategic partner, but we ignore human rights and values at our own peril.”

I hope that the continued focus by the U.S. government on Turkey using Brunson as a political pawn will lead to his release. I am encouraged that the Commission’s congressional members expressed the sentiment that although American-Turkish are of strategic importance, that human rights, including Brunson’s, are significant and meaningful for continued good relations.