Deteriorating U.S. relations with Turkey won’t be repaired until American pastor Andrew Brunson is released, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham said “it’s in Turkey’s interest to have a good relationship with the United States, and it’s in our interest to have a good relationship with Turkey.”
“This relationship needs to be repaired,” he said. “I would like to one day do a free trade agreement, I would like to get them out of Russia’s orbit, pull them back into our sphere of influence, where they should be. But it will never be a normal relationship until Pastor Brunson is out of jail.”
He added he also wants to see “five or six other Americans, Turkish Americans who work for the industry” also released.
“The charges are complete shams,” he said. “It’s a bogus event, they have nothing to do with trying to topple the government.”
“We need to reset this relationship in the best way to do it is let Pastor Brunson come home and start over,” he added..
The Trump administration has escalated a pressure campaign to get Brunson’s release, imposing sanctions to free him after a court late last month ordered that he be moved to house arrest after 21 months in detention. He is on trial for terrorism charges.
Brunson, who is from North Carolina and has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, has been accused of helping the group Ankara says was behind a failed military coup in 2016. The pastor, who has denied the charges, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.
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