An American pastor held for two years in Turkey on terror-related charges arrived home in the United States on Saturday and sat down with US President Donald Trump, who signaled an easing in the diplomatic crisis sparked by the case.
Andrew Brunson — who has become a cause celebre for Trump’s conservative Christian base — received a hero’s welcome at the White House shortly after his arrival at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.
Brunson thanked Trump and his administration, saying “you really fought for us” and later kneeled to pray for the president, his hand on Trump’s shoulder.
Trump repeatedly thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his help on the case, which caused not only a serious diplomatic row between the NATO allies but led to a crash in the lira, exposing Turkey’s economic fragility.
“It’s not an easy situation for Turkey either. They had a lot of difficult situations going on and I do want to thank President Erdogan for making this possible,” Trump said.
On Friday, a Turkish court in the western port city of Aliaga convicted Brunson on charges of espionage and aiding terror groups. It sentenced him to three years, one month and 15 days in jail — but released him based on time served and good behavior
Erdogan has said the court’s decision was “taken independently.”
Both Trump and Erdogan have denied reports that the two sides reached a secret deal for the 50-year-old Brunson to be released in exchange for the US easing “economic pressure” on Ankara.
“There was absolutely no deal made,” Trump told reporters on Saturday. “We don’t pay ransom” for hostages.
But as he tweeted earlier, “There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!”
Erdogan later responded: “I hope that the United States and Turkey continue cooperation in a manner that befits two allies.” (i24 News)
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