Arrested consulate staff and US citizens, has been an ongoing tension between the US and Turkey, deepened with the arrest of Pastor Brunson.
While the release of Brunson last October was a relief, a new bill asks for imposing sanctions against Turkish officials, barring the officials from travel to the United States and putting a hold on any U.S. assets. Bipartisan bill argues that there are thousands of people have been arrested due to their political stances in Turkey.
The bipartisan bill is introduced by Republican Senator Roger Wicker and Democrat Ben Cardin.
“The Turkish government’s false imprisonment of Americans and Turkish citizens employed by the United States in Turkey is a gross violation of their human rights,” Senator Cardin said in the statement. “Our bill makes clear that the United States will not tolerate years of Turkish recalcitrance on these cases.”
In his statement, Senator Roger Wicker said: “More than two and a half years have passed since Serkan Gölge, an American citizen, was detained in Turkey. Since then, we have witnessed the sham convictions of two Americans, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, and one local employee of the U.S. government on baseless terrorism charges."
"At least two other local staff of our consulate in Istanbul continue to face similar politically-motivated convictions without credible evidence of wrongdoing. Turkish authorities should immediately cease this harassment of our citizens and personnel,” he added.
Senator Wicker also posted an article on Washington Post on this issue.
Another signatory of the bill, Republican Thom Tillis said that “While the Turkish government made a step in the right direction with the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson last October, more needs to be done for Turkey to show good faith and act like a NATO ally.
In 2017, a crisis emerged between the US and Turkey after the detention of the US consulate staff in Turkey. Escalation of the crisis revolved into a suspension of visa services bilaterally.
The arrest of Pastor Brunson in December 2016 escalated the tension. He was released later October 2018.
Those who are detained include Serkan Golge, a NASA engineer, arrested due to his ties with Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), US Consulate officer Metin Topuz and Hamza Ulucay, a translator, working in the US consulate in Adana last 37 years.
After the coup attempt in 2016, it is estimated that 20 US citizens were arrested during the state of emergency.
For detained US citizens and consulate officials, the US strategy is similar to one from Germany, that was placed to release Deniz Yucel, a German journalist. Germany demanded the release of 20 German citizens who were arrested after the coup attempt. As a result, those names have been released in the meantime.
Serkan Gölge, a US Citizen and NASA scientist, was arrested in 2016 convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization, has been charged with 7.5 years last February.
Hamza Ulucay, a translator, has been working at the US Consulate in Adana over 35 years. He was arrested in February 2017 and convicted of being a member of the armed terrorist organization and asked for 15 years.
Metin Topuz has been affiliated with the US anti-narcotics team was arrested in September 2017. Following his arrest, the US suspended visa applications at the consulates for an indefinite period of time.
Other names include local officials at the US Consulate in Istanbul.