“I’d just say we’re obviously following this issue very closely. As I said the other day, we are concerned about the quality of Turkey’s democracy,” Toner said during a regular press briefing. “These are discussions that we have on a somewhat regular basis with the Turkish government. Because we’re strong allies and partners, we can have those kinds of conversations.”
Responding to a question over an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) report that pointed to “limitations” during the campaigning for the “no” votes, Toner referred to his statements on April 11.
“We’re looking at that and studying it very closely … We hope the referendum is carried out in such a way that guarantees and strengthens democracy in Turkey,” he said.
“We never want to see, as part of any kind of free and fair electoral process, any kind of limitation on all sides to express their views peacefully,” he said.
Toner also, following another question regarding fairness of the elections while hundreds of opposition politicians and officials in jails, said US is going to ”withhold comment” until observers pronounce their judgement regarding the fairness of the election. Toner said: ”there are election observers on the ground. We’re going to let them look at and analyze this referendum as it – and that’s going to include in the lead up to it – and pronounce their judgment of whether it was free and fair. I’m going to withhold comment beyond what I have said already, which is, of course, we’re watching this. We’re monitoring it very closely.”
US: We asked Turkey to release Pastor Brunson
Another issue touched during the briefing was Pastor Andrew Brunson, the evangelical Presbyterian pastor from North Carolina who has been under arrest in Turkey since December last year.
“We have asked Turkish officials to consider releasing Mr. Brunson from custody, subject to whatever judicial conditions or controls may be appropriate while his legal case is resolved,” Toner said.
“He’s been in detention far too long and this has been done with other individuals under investigation. Of course, we call on the Turkish authorities to resolve his case in a timely and fair manner, respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the protections of a fair trial guarantee that are necessary for his defense,” he added.
Washington will to continue to offer “whatever support we can to Mr. Brunson and his family,” he said.
Brunson has been charged with membership of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen who is accused of masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt.
The U.S.’s National Public Radio quoted Brunson’s sister Beth Herman on April 14 as saying that “he’s there because he loves Turkey and the people of Turkey.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the wife of the pastor in the Turkish capital Ankara late on March 30 on the sidelines of his visit to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and senior government ministers.
WHatti & HDN