Trump says US Pastor Jailed in Turkey Is Not a Spy, He Is Innocent
“U.S. pastor jailed in Turkey is not a spy” and “he’s totally an innocent man,” U.S. President Donald J. Trump said on Sunday, in most clear remarks to this day over an issue that has strained ties between two NATO allies.
The case of Pastor Andrew Brunson who has been imprisoned since October 2016 over charges of terrorism and espionage has once again come to the political spotlight in the U.S. when President Trump welcomed an American prisoner recently released from the Venezuelan prison.
Joshua Holt was arrested in 2016 in Venezuela on the accusation of being a CIA spy. He was released after two years of imprisonment.
During his welcoming remarks, Trump also mentioned Pastor Brunson who face 35 years in prison if convicted.
“We have Pastor Brunson, a wonderful Christian pastor, and he’s right now in Turkey. He’s been there a long time. And they say he’s a spy, but he’s not a spy,” the president said with strong conviction.
Brunson appeared at two hearings over the past two months. Despite calls from the U.S. officials, the Turkish court in the western province of Izmir refused to release him.
The pastor has lived in Izmir for 23 years and led a church there before his arrest.
“Pastor Brunson. I hope you can hear us. We will be helping you at some point. It has been a long time. He is totally innocent man,” President Trump said.
His remarks reflect a growing exasperation on the U.S. side. A group of bipartisan U.S. senators last week added a measure to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan to remove Turkey from joint multinational F-35 program.