The allegations being made in Turkey against an American pastor being held prisoner are “absurd,” Sen. Thom Tillis who visited him and observed him in a Turkish courtroom a month ago, said Tuesday.
“There are secret witnesses that we saw,” the North Carolina Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” describing proceedings against Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been accused of espionage and assisting terrorist groups.
“They saw a light in a room upstairs in the church for four hours. There had to be something bad happening there. The odd thing about that particular circumstance by a secret witness is there is no window in this room.”
Tillis said he also finds it absurd that Brunson has requested that 10 people come before him as witnesses, and all were denied because they were deemed suspects, even though they have not been charged or convicted of anything.
“That’s the nature of this kangaroo court we’re witnessing in Turkey,” said Tillis.
The United States will continue to put pressure on Turkey, as it is a NATO ally and there is a U.S. Air Force base located there, said Tillis.
“We have a very tight relationship with them in terms of manufacturing of the joint strike fighter,” said Tillis. “We have to rethink our relationship with Turkey if this is how they’ll treat American citizens. It is unheard of among NATO allies to treat people this way.”
He also disagreed with those calling to let the Turkish judicial process play out.
“It is a political process that President Recep Erdogan is allowing to play out,” Tillis said.
“We continue to increase the pressure on Turkey to free pastor Brunson, who has been in prison 578 days and the vast majority of that was without charges.
“We need to bring him home and be mindful of other Americans who have been sentenced. We have a NASA scientist sentenced to 7-and-a-half years and working for our State Department awaiting trial. This has to stop, or we need to rethink our relationship with Turkey.”
Tillis said he believes the pastor is doing well, even though he’s been in “impossible circumstances” for 15 months.
“He was in a prison cell that had 21 people in it designed for eight,” said Tillis. “He has been moved to a different prison that is better. We tried to show respect to the Turkish government and tried to show respect by meeting with the ambassador and foreign minister.
“Now what we have to do is show we’re prepared to act in terms of sanctions and changing the nature of our relationship with Turkey.”
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