Trump expected to meet American pastor freed by Turkey

Trump expected to meet American pastor freed by Turkey

President Donald Trump said he made no concessions to secure the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was set free Friday by a Turkish court and is en route back to the U.S.

"This is the day our family has been praying for - I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States", Brunson said in a statement.

The Brunson affair has also contributed to Turkey's bipartisan unpopularity in Congress, which is threatening to remove Ankara from the F-35 fighter jet production program.

"It's been an extremely hard time for our family and we want to express our appreciation to the millions of people around the world who have faithfully prayed for this day", Brunson said.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Trump tweeted: "Working very hard on Pastor Brunson!"

But in a sign that Brunson's release doesn't resolve all tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement on Friday saying, "We remain deeply concerned about the continued detention of other United States citizens in Turkey and around the world, and urge the resolution of all these cases in a transparent and fair manner".

The president also said there was no deal made with Turkey for Brunson's release, because the president said he does not make deals for hostages.

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"I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey".

U.S. media reported on Thursday that the United States had struck a secret deal with Turkey to lift sanctions in order to secure his release.

The resumption of the trial came at a sensitive time for the Turkish leadership, which is under global scrutiny over how it handles the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared at Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul last week.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted a response to Mr. Trump, saying that "as I always pointed out, the Turkish judiciary reached its decision independently".

Pastor Andrew Brunson meets with the U.S. ambassador of Germany, during a brief stop at a U.S. Air Base on his way back to the U.S.

The pastor is a native of North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for more than two decades and has been imprisoned for the past two years. Prosecutors then demanded a sentence of up to 10 years. He was sentenced for allegedly helping terror groups.

Mr. Brunson had rejected the charges and strongly maintained his innocence. "There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!"

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