Norine Brunson, the wife of an American pastor jailed on bogus terrorism charges in Turkey, had little hope of meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Ankara this week. But the North Carolina native flew to the Turkish capital city anyway because she already had a plane ticket, and Andrew, her husband, had told her that he felt that God had told him she would meet America’s top diplomat.
And it turned out that he was right.
“On Monday, Andrew told me he felt the Lord had said I would meet with Sec of State Tillerson. On Tuesday, I was told by the embassy and another senator that the meeting would NOT happen. I decided to come to Ankara anyway and arrived last night,” Norine Brunson wrote on Facebook Thursday, just after she met for 20 minutes with Tillerson.
Tillerson, a former CEO at ExxonMobil, had shown no indication that he would meet with Brunson. His only scheduled event was with Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It is not clear what was said in the meeting or if Tillerson discussed Brunson’s case with Erdogan. Reports of the meeting focused on discussions about the civil war in Syria.
But Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), says that Tillerson’s meeting with Norine Brunson is a positive development in the case to help free Andrew.
“This is a powerful sign that the Trump Administration is taking the plight of this wrongfully imprisoned U.S. citizen very seriously,” said Sekulow, who is working to help free the pastor.
The Daily Caller has followed Brunson’s case with great interest.
The Brunsons, who have worked in Turkey for 23 years as missionaries, were detained by Turkish authorities in October and held for deportation. Norine was released shortly after, but Andrew was kept in jail and accused of being part of a terrorist organization.
Which terrorist organization is unclear. Turkish authorities have not disclosed that information or anything else about its supposed case.
Brunson has been in a prison in Izmir since November and has had limited contact with his lawyers and Norine. The case against Brunson appears to be part of a larger crackdown against anyone who the Erdogan regime arbitrarily deems an enemy. Christians, people suspected of supporting Kurdish rebels, and suspected followers of a U.S.-based cleric named Fethullah Gulen have all been targeted by Erdogan’s government.
It has been suggested that Erodgan is using Brunson as a bargaining chip in his effort to force the U.S. to extradite Gulen back to Turkey. Erdogan has accused the imam of masterminding July’s failed coup attempt from his home in Pennsylvania.
ACLJ has ramped up pressure on Congress and the Trump administration to help the pastor. Last month, the group sent a letter to Tillerson asking him to help Brunson. And Brunson himself gave a letter to U.S. embassy officials this week asking President Trump to intervene to help him. (RELATED: ‘Help Me’ — American Pastor Imprisoned In Turkey Asks Trump To Fight For Him)
“I plead with my government — with the Trump Administration — to fight for me,” Brunson wrote in the letter.
“I do not know what will come of it, considering the sensitive period Turkey is in, but was grateful for the opportunity,” Brunson wrote of her meeting with Tillerson.
The State Department declined to provide details about Tillerson’s meetings with Norine Brunson and Erdogan.
“We’re aware of Mrs. Brunson’s statement. We continue to engage with the Government of Turkey on behalf of Andrew Brunson. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” a State Department official told TheDC.