Pastor Andrew Brunson has met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office after more than two years’ of detention in Turkey.
During the encounter Mr Brunson knelt before the president and prayed for him, asking that he be made “a great blessing for this country”.
The pastor touched down at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland following his release on Friday and was pictured kissing an American flag that he was given.
Mr Trump, during his remarks in the Oval Office, said that the US has been working “long and hard” to secure the release of Mr Brunson, and that the pastor’s strength and faith while in Turkish detention had “galvanised the country”.
“I just want to congratulate you ... There’s so much interest, and it’s your faith, it’s your strength, what you’ve gone through,” Mr Trump said.
“Right now the whole world is a fan of yours,” he said.
The pastor had been in Turkish prison after being arrested for alleged links to political groups including a banned movement related to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. His arrest followed the failed coup in 2016 which Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has blamed on Mr Gulen.
He was convicted for those crimes on Friday, but was released from custody due to the time he had spent behind bars. Additional espionage charges that had been brought against him were dropped.
Before the Oval Office meeting, Mr Trump had tweeted about his planned meeting, saying he was excited to see the pastor.
“It will be wonderful to see and meet him,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “He is a great Christian who has been through such a tough experience”.
Mr Brunson, after his release, told reporters that he now plans to spend time with his wife and children.
Mr Trump, in the Oval Office meeting, said that he believes Mr Brunson’s release was a “tremendous step” towards a better relationship between Turkey and the US.
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