U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Andrew Brunson to the White House on Oct. 13 to following the pastor’s release from nearly two years of confinement in Turkey.
Brunson, originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, prayed for Trump and the nation in the Oval Office, asking God to provide the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”
Brunson, who was detained in 2016 amid charges he was linked to terrorists and Turkish opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, returned to the U.S. aboard a military jet shortly before meeting with Trump.
He faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him. A Turkish court on Oct. 12 convicted Brunson of having links to terrorism and sentenced him to just over three years in prison, but released the 50-year-old pastor because he had already spent nearly two years in detention, The Associated Press reported. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.
“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad,” Trump said.
When Brunson asked Trump if he could pray for him, the president replied, “Well, I need it probably more than anyone else in this room, so that would be very nice, thank you.”
Brunson said in the prayer: “I ask that you give him perseverance, and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you to protect him from slander from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus’ name, we bless you. Amen.”
Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. “We do not pay ransom in this country,” the president said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had asked the U.S. to turn over Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, to the Turkish government. Erdogan blamed Gulen for the failed 2016 coup in Turkey. In return, he promised to release Brunson.
“Pastor Brunson was likely chosen to be a political hostage, and negotiating tool, because he is a Christian leader,” Christianity Today noted in an April 14 report.
U.S. lawmakers had used the delivery of the F-35 to Turkey as a bargaining chip, analysts say. The annual defense policy and appropriations bills included language to delay sales of the stealth fighter to Turkey over Brunson’s detainment and Ankara’s plans to buy the S-400 system.
Turkish pilots and maintainers arrived in July at the F-35 international partner training program in Arizona – but the first two jets will remain in U.S. custody for at least the next year, the Pentagon said.
Analysts say Brunson’s release does not resolve disagreements over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, as well as a plan by Turkey to buy the Russian S-400.
Published under arrangement with the World Tribune