US Senate committee chairman asks if Turkey has become too dangerous for foreigners to visit

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee examining David Friedman to be US Ambassador to Israel on Capitol Hill February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump's nominee to become US ambassador to Israel expressed skepticism Thursday that a two-state peace deal would be possible given what he called Palestinian violent extremism. David Friedman, a longstanding supporter of Israeli causes, was facing a Senate confirmation hearing a day after Trump backed away from America's long-standing support of a two-state solution. / AFP PHOTO / ZACH GIBSON

Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on Wednesday questioned whether or not it’s safe for foreigners to live in or even visit NATO ally Turkey due to arbitrary detentions arising from the persecution of government opponents after a failed coup last year.

Speaking during a hearing titled “Priorities and Challenges in the U.S.-Turkey Relationship” in the US Senate on Wednesday, Corker criticized the detention of tens of thousands of people over their alleged links to the failed coup through decrees issued by the government as part of an ongoing state of emergency.

Corker said an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, has been jailed in Turkey for 334 days and added that “his continued mistreatment has raised questions as to whether or not it’s safe to live in or even visit Turkey.”

Brunson was jailed in Turkey in October 2016 due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, with acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order and overthrow the Turkish Parliament.

Several other foreigners and Turks with dual citizenship were put behind bars following the failed coup over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of being behind the attempted coup. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

Also speaking during the hearing, Ranking Member Senator Ben Cardin criticized Turkey over a referendum on April 16, saying it was not a free and transparent one.

Pointing out that Turkey is a democracy, Cardin, however, said that “Turkey doesn’t meet the standards of a democratic country.”

During the hearing Dr. Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Dr. Amanda Sloat, fellow for the Democracy In Hard Places Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, presented their papers (Cook, Sloat) on Turkey.

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