VOA News | Published: October 13, 2018
President Donald Trump prays with American Pastor Andrew Brunson in the Oval Office of the White House, Oct. 13, 2018, in Washington. Brunson returned to the U.S. after he was freed Friday, having been detained for nearly two years in Turkey.
U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, newly freed from detention in Turkey, thanked Donald Trump and prayed for the U.S. president at a televised White House meeting Saturday.
Brunson had been held by Turkey for two years. Grateful for the diplomatic effort to free him, Brunson said he “loves this country.”
President Donald Trump walks with American Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine, down the Colonnade of the White House before their meeting in the Oval Office, Oct. 13, 2018, in Washington.
Trump thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the return of Brunson, who was freed Friday by a Turkish court. Trump noted the U.S. did not negotiate an agreement with Turkey for Brunson’s release.
Brunson’s release ended a bitter diplomatic dispute between Washington and Ankara. He was facing 35 years in jail if he had been convicted on terrorism and espionage charges, allegations Washington called baseless.
The Turkish court found Brunson guilty Friday but sentenced him to only three years and one month in jail. The pastor had already served two years in pre-trial detention, so he was freed for time served.
During the fourth day of hearings Friday, three prosecution witnesses recanted earlier testimony. One said he didn’t know who Brunson was, while others claimed the court had misunderstood their previous statements.
Pastor Andrew Brunson, center left, and his wife, Norine, arrive at Adnan Menderes airport for a flight to Germany after his release following his trial in Izmir, Turkey, Oct. 12, 2018.
The pastor’s case became the focal point of a crisis in Turkish-U.S. relations. Trump, partly in retaliation for Brunson’s prosecution, slapped Turkey with trade tariffs in August. The action made the Turkish currency collapse.
On Twitter on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration would continue to work to bring other “wrongfully imprisoned” Americans home.
VOA’s Steve Herman contributed to this report.