On Friday, the Turkish government, in response to ongoing efforts by the Trump administration, finally freed Turkish pastor Andrew Brunson. The Christian pastor was jailed over two years ago and was put on trial for the crime of “Christianization.”
Brunson was accused of aiding two terrorist groups and if convicted he could have served up to thirty-five years in a Turkish prison. Brunson has been a missionary in Turkey for twenty-three years.
Throughout the entire ordeal Pastor Andrew Brunson maintained his innocence, stating that he was being persecuted for sharing his faith. Brunson has been in jail since October 7, 2016, and has lost fifty pounds during his time in jail.
In late July, Turkish authorities released Brunson from jail and placed him on house arrest. Pastor Brunson is a United States citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina. President Trump advocated strongly on Pastor Brunson’s behalf, even publicly calling on Twitter for the President of Turkey to release Brunson. President Trump called his imprisonment a “total disgrace.” Vice President Mike Pence also stated the United States would “impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.”
Several senior Trump administration officials predicted earlier this week that Pastor Brunson would be released very soon. Some have said that the Trump administration and the Turkish government put together a deal which stipulated Brunson’s release – the specifics of which are not known – but rumor has it that the deal includes lightened economic pressure against Turkey. President Trump himself stated that no deal was made, stressing that he does not do deals for hostages.
“I don’t make deals for hostages,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!”
Brunson has now landed in the United States and is set to meet with President Trump at the White House later today.