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Oct 16 2018

West needs policy on Erdoğan’s remaining hostages – analyst

The release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday is another example of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s strategy of using imprisoned Western citizens as bargaining chips in diplomatic dealings with Turkey’s NATO allies, wrote Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in the Washington Post.

The two-year detention of Brunson on charges of aiding and abetting terrorist groups clearly illustrates Erdogan’s grip on Turkey’s justice system, and the direct power that he holds over court proceedings, Erdemir said.

Although the United States should welcome Brunson’s release, the analyst wrote, it should not offer Turkey’s strongman carte blanche for blatant breaches of international norms.

Erdemir said that Erdoğan confirmed his intention to use Brunson as a bargaining chip, by saying in September 2017, “give us our pastor and we’ll give you yours”, referring to U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, the man Ankara accuses of plotting a 2016 coup attempt.

Noting reports of a secret deal between the United States and Turkey, Erdemir said such a deal would be a grave mistake.

Turkey has reportedly jailed 20 Americans under a state of emergency after the failed coup and any swap deals for these prisoners would “only encourage Erdogan’s hostage-taking and additional sham trials in Turkey,” Erdemir said.

The only glimmer of hope for imprisoned Turkish dissidents, Erdemir wrote, was to help Erdoğan return to the rules-bound international order.