The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom sent the following letter to President Donald Trump on September 14, 2018.
President Donald Trump
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write to you on behalf of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to express our concern regarding the upcoming visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the United States later this month and his participation in an investment conference in New York City hosted by a Turkish organization, the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, which is not part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That President Erdoğan will be on American soil to solicit business investments among American companies is troubling given his personal and public support for the continued, unlawful detainment in Turkey of American Pastor Andrew Brunson.
We respectfully urge any U.S. officials and entities participating in the conference to reconsider the merits of conducting business with Turkey under the current conditions. The lack of rule of law and deteriorating human rights in Turkey, as exemplified by the case of American Pastor Andrew Brunson, is a serious cause for concern and not conducive to a positive business climate at this time.
USCIRF has been a leading voice advocating for Pastor Brunson’s release. In October 2017, two USCIRF Commissioners were Pastor Brunson’s first visitors in Kırıklar Prison outside of family, legal counsel, and U.S. Embassy officials. Our vice chair, Kristina Arriaga, advocates for Pastor Brunson as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. Although Pastor Brunson was moved to house arrest on July 25, 2018 due to health concerns, a move that USCIRF welcomed, we remain concerned for Pastor Brunson’s safety and security, and similarly for his family. The high-profile nature of Pastor Brunson’s case and regular, inflammatory public commentary by Turkish officials, including President Erdoğan, have created a precarious and potentially volatile environment that could put the safety of Pastor Brunson and his family at heightened risk.
USCIRF commends your personal efforts, as well as the efforts of your administration including those of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to secure Pastor Brunson’s release. We ask that you and any U.S. officials that may interact with President Erdoğan or his representatives continue to raise the case of Pastor Brunson in all aspects of the U.S.-Turkey relationship and urge U.S. entities to reconsider pursuing business opportunities with Turkey at this time.
Gary L. Bauer
cc: The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo Secretary of State
The Honorable Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer Senate Minority Leader
The Honorable Paul D. Ryan Speaker of the House
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi Democratic Leader
Thomas J. Donohue President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
To view a PDF version of the letter, click here.