U.S. senator introduces bill for sanctions against Turkey
U.S Senator and Helsinki Commission Chairman Roger Wicker introduced a bipartisan resolution on June 12 urging President Donald Trump to take action against seven countries, including Turkey, for what it described as violations of religious freedom.
“Our founding fathers made religious freedom a cornerstone of our country, and President Trump carries that legacy forward by making religious freedom a cornerstone of his presidency. This resolution is a blueprint for action in a region where governments have often attacked religious freedom instead of protecting it. When governments take steps toward improvement, as Uzbekistan has done, we should support and bolster their efforts,” said Wicker.
“Designate Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey as ‘Special Watch List Countries’ for severe violations of religious freedom, and designate Kazakhstan if it continues to tighten restrictions on religious freedom,” resolution 539 read, calling for sanctioning Turkish officials responsible for the imprisonment of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been jailed in Turkey since October 2016.
The resolution also calls for the re-designation of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as “Countries of Particular Concern,” calling to block entry to the United States and impose financial sanctions on individual violators in all seven countries, as well as Russian-led separatist forces in Ukraine.
Helsinki Commissioner Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) is the lead co-sponsor of the resolution. Other original co-sponsors of S.Res.539 include Helsinki Commissioners Sen. Thom Tillis (NC), Sen. John Boozman (AR), and Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), along with Sen. James Lankford (OK).
Critical Turkey report
In the “International Religious Freedom Report for 2017” released earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State criticized Turkey.
The report highlighted that since 2011 the General Directorate of Foundations had received 1,560 applications from religious minority foundations that had applied for compensation for seized properties.
It pointed that thousands of Gülen network suspects were arrested or suspended from public institutions including the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).
The report also called for the release of Brunson, who is also accused of having links to the Gülen network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).