Trump Says Pastor ‘Suffered Greatly’ While Detained by Turkey
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he made no concessions to secure the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was set free Friday by a Turkish court and is en route back to the U.S.
“He suffered greatly but we’re very appreciative to a lot of people,” Trump said Friday in Cincinnati, Ohio, on his way to a campaign rally. “There was no deal made” for his release, he added.
Trump said Brunson would visit the Oval Office, “most likely on Saturday,” after getting an expected medical checkup in Germany first.
Brunson’s release resolves a key point of tension between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey in August over the pastor’s detention, and had threatened to follow suit with more punitive measures if he wasn’t set free. The dispute compounded a 40 percent depreciation of the lira this year.
But in a sign that Brunson’s release doesn’t resolve all tensions between the two NATO allies, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement on Friday saying, “We remain deeply concerned about the continued detention of other United States citizens in Turkey and around the world, and urge the resolution of all these cases in a transparent and fair manner.”
The U.S. had previously expressed concern about the continued detentions of NASA scientist Serkan Golge and three Turkish employees of the U.S. mission to Turkey.
Officials have hoped Brunson’s release could serve as a catalyst for improving ties between Turkey and the U.S. Turkey has played a role in the fight against Islamic State in neighboring Syria and has the second-biggest military in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. At the same time, Erdogan has made American leaders increasingly nervous because of his drift toward authoritarianism and pursuit of better ties with Russia.
Brunson, 50, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, had been jailed in Turkey for close to two years after a court in Izmir found him guilty of charges related to a failed coup attempt in 2016. Brunson denied the charges against him. The court on Friday lifted all judicial controls because of good behavior and time served, freeing Brunson to leave Turkey, where he’s lived for more than 20 years.
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