U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence brought up the case of American pastor Andrew Brunson when they met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 16 and called for his immediate release from prison in Turkey.
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An administration official told Christian Broadcasting Network News that Trump was the first one to mention Brunson's case to Erdogan. Pence also did the same, and then the president brought it up a third time.
Pastor Brunson has been in prison in Turkey since October. He was never formally charged but was caught up in a widespread crackdown on terrorism.
"They went to bat for the pastor," the administration official said to CBN News.
In a statement, the White House revealed that Trump met with Erdogan to explore ways to strengthen the ties between the two countries. In the middle of the discussion, Trump asked the Turkish government to "expeditiously return" Pastor Brunson to the U.S. and also told Erdogan that he looks forward to another meeting with him during his international travel.
However, the administration official could not release a comment on Erdogan's response to the questions on Brunson. Nevertheless, Trump drew praise from the Christian community for his efforts to defend the jailed American pastor.
"President Trump and Vice President Pence have yet again demonstrated that they are 'defenders of the church' focused intently upon religious liberty here but also on religious liberty abroad," said Dr. James Dobson. "Of the countless issues facing our world, it's clear that to this White House the well being of any individual American rests at the top of the list of priorities and especially when that American is a prisoner of conscience."
Prior to the meeting with Erdogan, a lawyer representing Brunson's family told Fox News that Trump had committed to working for the return of the wrongfully imprisoned pastor. Attorney Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said the promise gave Brunson's family a ray of hope.
In addition, Sekulow said he had respectfully asked the president to bring up the pastor's case during his meeting with Erdogan. The lawyer told Fox that he is confident that issue will be resolved in a short time.