President Trump spent much of his time in a White House meeting on Tuesday pressuring Turkey’s president to return an American pastor jailed on bogus charges in the country.
“President Trump raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish Government expeditiously return him to the United States,” the White House said in a press release following Trump’s meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Brunson, a North Carolina native, has been in jail in Turkey since October.
Brunson and his wife were initially detained for visa-related issues. But Brunson was held longer, and charges against him were upgraded to a vague terrorism rap.
The Turkish judiciary has provided little information about the charges against Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years and operated a small Christian church with his wife.
There have been some reports that Brunson is accused of being a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who the Turkish government alleges is a terrorist. Erdogan’s regime has arrested tens of thousands of people in Turkey based on questionable allegations of having ties to Gulen.
Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said Tuesday that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence brought up the Brunson case three times during the meeting with Erodgan.
“Pastor Andrew — a U.S. citizen — has been wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey for more than seven months because of his Christian faith,” said Sekulow, who met with Trump and Pence last week to address Brunson’s case.
“Today, they did just that, raising his plight directly to President Erdogan,” Sekulow added.
“This is exactly what we asked the President to do and is a major sign of significant progress toward bringing Pastor Andrew home.”
In March, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson met with Brunson during his diplomatic visit to Turkey. Just before that meeting, Brunson wrote a letter to Trump asking the Republican to intervene with the Turkish government in his case. (RELATED: American Pastor Falsely Jailed In Turkish Prison Asks For Trump’s Help)
“I plead with my government — with the Trump Administration — to fight for me,” Brunson wrote at the time.
It is not clear how Erodgan responded the requests made in Tuesday’s meeting. The Turkish government has not addressed Brunson’s case in the media.