Trump welcomes home freed American pastor Andrew Brunson
President Trump on Saturday welcomed home American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was freed from Turkey, saying it was a satisfying end to a “long journey.”
Sitting beside Mr. Brunson in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said the pastor had an “interesting day.”
“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours. That’s not bad,” Trump said.
Mr. Brunson, who spend nearly two years detained in Turkey, thanked Mr. Trump for fighting for him and his family.
“You really fought for us, incredibly so,” said Mr. Brunson, who was accompanied in the Oval Office by his wife Norine and two of their three children.
Mr. Brunson also thanked several Senators and member of the administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
The president said many deserved credit for the bipartisan effort that secured Mr. Brunson’s freedom, including the entire Senate and many in Congress.
“Right now the whole world is a fan of yours,” he said. “It is was everybody who wanted this to happen.”
Later, the pastor got on his knees and prayed for Mr. Trump, asking God to give the president “supernatural wisdom” in order to carry out “all that you and he have planned for the country.”
“I ask that you make him a great blessing to this county,” he prayed.
Mr. Trump thanked him for the prayer.
In another exchange, Mr. Trump joked that he wouldn’t ask Mr. Brunson whether he was returning to Turkey.
Mr. Brunson said he harbored no ill will toward Turkey, that he loved the county and the Turkish people.
Mr. Trump also thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish people, who the president said he loved.
He said it was “long and hard” negotiations. “We don’t pay ransom, at least not anymore,” the president added.
The release of the pastor marks a highpoint in long-strained relations between Washington and Ankara.
Mr. Brunson was arrested by the Turkish government in October 2016 on charges related to terrorism and espionage. The government argued that the American pastor was involved in the failed 2016 military coup, which Mr. Brunson and the U.S. denied.
A Turkish court ruled Friday that Mr. Brunson was free to leave the country, sentencing him to time served during nearly two years of house arrest. Mr. Brunson faced up to 35 years in prison.
A Turkish court ruled Friday that Mr. Brunson was free to leave the country, commuting his sentence of a three-year prison term to time served during nearly two years of house arrest.
“This is a tremendous step toward having the kind of relationship with Turkey, that could be a great relationship, that I know we can have,” Mr. Trump said Saturday.