Trump Expected To Welcome Andrew Brunson, Pastor Who Was Held Captive In Turkey
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And at the White House this weekend, President Trump is expected to welcome a U.S. pastor who was released on Friday after two years in detention in Turkey. Andrew Brunson has been at the center of a high-level international lobbying campaign. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Pastor Brunson was arrested in Turkey in 2016, along with thousands of others, as part of a roundup following a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Brunson, an evangelical Christian who ran a small church in Turkey, has denied charges of espionage and aiding terrorists. He was permitted a transfer to house arrest two months ago and finally freed altogether after a court hearing on Friday. President Trump was quick to cheer the decision on Twitter, but he held off speaking publicly about Brunson until the pastor had cleared Turkish airspace and was on his way back to the United States.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're very honored to have him back with us. He suffered greatly, but we're very appreciative to a lot of people, a lot of people.
HORSLEY: With strong backing from the president's evangelical supporters, the Trump administration has lobbied hard for Brunson's release. Trump and Vice President Pence repeatedly raised the issue with Turkish President Erdogan. Two months ago, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey's Justice and Interior ministers, citing what it called the pastor's unfair and unjust detention. Trump also doubled the tariff rate on Turkish exports of steel and aluminum. Brunson's release brings the possibility of improved relations with the key NATO ally. And there are reports some sanctions could be lifted. But Trump insists the administration made no concessions.
TRUMP: There was no deal made. At all. There was no deal. But we're very happy to have him and have him in good shape.
HORSLEY: Brunson was expected to get a full checkup in Germany on his way back to the United States. The White House press secretary said in a statement the administration is still deeply concerned about Turkey's detention of other American citizens. But the U.S. looks forward to working with Turkey on security and stability in the Middle East. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.