Press Releases

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and John McCain (R-AZ) today called on President Trump to ramp up efforts to stop Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan from further eroding human rights, harassing American diplomats, and weakening democratic values in Turkey.
 
Citing a storm of recent actions including the arbitrary arrest of several U.S. Consulate employees in Istanbul, the detention of top Amnesty International officials, the appalling sentencing by a Turkish court of Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak, and the brutal attack by Turkish security personnel of peaceful demonstrators protesting Edrogan’s visit in Washington D.C, the senators wrote President Trump urging additional actions to denounce the dramatic undermining of the rule of law by Edrogan’s government and to stop further erosion of human rights, harassment of American diplomats, and weakening of the democratic values that bind Turkey to its traditional allies.
“We recognize Turkey’s strategic importance as a longtime NATO ally and a traditional source of stability and democratic values across the Middle East and wider region,” the Senators wrote.  “However, over the past several years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his allies have corroded Turkey’s democracy by mounting an assault on the rule of law, using sweeping state of emergency authorities to stifle fundamental rights including free speech, undermining the independence of the judiciary, and quashing any expressions of opposition.”
 
“We urge you to send a clear message to President Erdogan that the United States will not tolerate this type of behavior and that any cooperation must be based on a shared commitment to human rights and rule of law,” the Senators added.
 
Along with Rubio, Menendez and McCain, the letter was co-signed by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Boozman (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Edward Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
  
The full text of the senators’ letter is below:
 
Dear President Trump:
 
We write to express our grave concern about the continuing erosion of human rights and decline of democratic values in Turkey illustrated most recently by the arrest of Metin Topuz, an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, and the attempted arrest of a third employee, Mete Canturk, who also works at the Istanbul consulate.  Unfortunately, Mr. Canturk’s wife and child were also arrested when officials were unable to locate Mr. Canturk at his home.  This now accounts for three separate incidents this year that the Turkish government has arrested a Turkish staff member of our diplomatic mission with little, if any, evidence of wrongdoing. It is completely unacceptable for the Turkish government to arbitrarily harass or arrest anyone, especially employees of our diplomatic missions and their families.
 
We recognize Turkey’s strategic importance as a longtime NATO ally and a traditional source of stability and democratic values across the Middle East and wider region.  However, over the past several years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his allies have corroded Turkey’s democracy by mounting an assault on the rule of law, using sweeping state of emergency authorities to stifle fundamental rights including free speech, undermining the independence of the judiciary, and quashing any expressions of opposition.  In addition to the arrest of our consulate staff, Turkish authorities have arrested top officials of Amnesty International, and sentenced Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak to two years in prison in absentia.
 
Furthermore, the Erdogan government is exporting this brutality to our soil.  In May, a Pro-Erdogan group, which included Erdogan’s security personnel, brutally attacked peaceful demonstrators in Sheridan Circle who gathered to protest the visit of President Erdogan to the United States. Nine people were hospitalized, and as far as we know, there was no disciplinary action taken against the security personnel nor a public condemnation from your Administration. 
 
We support the State Department’s decision to suspend non-immigrant visa services at our Embassy and Consulates in Turkey, but encourage you to take steps to mitigate potential impacts on those members of society who may rely on those services.  We urge you to send a clear message to President Erdogan that the United States will not tolerate this type of behavior and that any cooperation must be based on a shared commitment to human rights and rule of law.
 
Sincerely,