HALC Supports Sanctions Against Turkey, Calls for More Action on Hostages and Missing Greek-Americans

CHICAGO, IL — The Hellenic American Leadership Council welcomed news of the Trump administration’s decision to sanction Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu over the country’s imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson. HALC fully supports the sanctions, and again demands the immediate release of Pastor Bruson, who has been illegally detained and falsely accused by the Turkish government.

The sanctions imposed today, however, should be just an initial measure of accountability against the Turkish government. Beyond the case of Pastor Brunson, Turkey continues to hold Americans and State Department employees hostage under false allegations, including several U.S. foreign service nationals, NASA scientist Serkan Golge and others. It continues to detain two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed into Turkey, despite calls from Greece and the EU for their release. There is also Turkey’s 24 straight years of violating US law by failing to assist in the location of four Greek-Americans who are still missing since Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Under a law introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-17) and signed by President Clinton (Public Law No: 103–372), the administration “should do everything possible to return to their families, as soon as is practicable, the United States citizens who have been missing from Cyprus since 1974, and others who have been missing, including returning the remains of those who are no longer alive.” The Dillon Report, submitted to Congress in 1998 pursuant to that law, made clear both Turkey’s violations of international law in its treatment of persons during the invasion as well as the fact that these four Greek-Americans likely perished at the hands of Turkish soldiers in areas now illegally occupied by Turkey.

We urge the Trump administration to call on Turkey to immediately release all falsely accused Americans and State Department employees, and to locate, identify and return the remains of the four Greek-Americans in order to bring their families some semblance of closure. Should the Turkish government refuse, we ask the Trump administration to (a) expand the imposed sanctions to cover all of Turkey’s transgressions; (b) activate the sanctions authorized by Public Law No: 103–372; and (c) consider additional sanctions including freezing arms transfers.

“Turkey’s use of hostage diplomacy is abhorrent and inconsistent with being an ally. It’s unjustified detention of two Greek soldiers and several American citizens proves that our label of Turkey as the ‘Worst Ally Ever’ is well-deserved,” said Endy Zemenides, HALC’s Executive Director. “Other NATO allies should be exploring additional measures against the Turkish officials responsible for these outrageous acts.”