Senators pledge to pursue sanctions against Turkey over imprisoned American pastor

Senators pledge to pursue sanctions against Turkey over imprisoned American pastor
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Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP senators eye 'nuclear' move to change rules on Trump nominees Senate GOP goes down to wire in showdown with Trump MORE (R-Okla.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election MORE (D-N.H.) on Thursday called for sanctions against Turkey in response to its detainment of an American pastor.

The two senators condemned the Turkish government for holding pastor Andrew Brunson for the past 18 months, and threatened to implement economic sanctions as part of a fiscal 2019 spending bill if he is not released.

“Turkish officials who participate in the detainment of any innocent American citizen should face international consequences, and the actions against Pastor Brunson, in particular, qualify as hostage-taking,” Lankford and Shaheen said in a statement. 

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Both Lankford and Shaheen serve on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. 

“We desire cooperation and strengthening ties between our countries, but the U.S. Government has a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of its people,” they said.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE, Vice President Pence and other U.S. officials have lobbied Turkish officials in recent weeks to release Brunson, arguing he has been wrongfully imprisoned.

He was detained 18 months ago, accused of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and of having a connection to Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric who Turkey claims orchestrated the coup attempt. 

Brunson, who has been working in Turkey for 23 years as the pastor of the Resurrection Church, has denied the allegations.