President Donald Trump appealed to Turkey for the release of the American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who is being held on accusations that he supported a failed military coup in 2016.
Brunson is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for 25 years, serving as leader of a Christian church in the town of Izmir, about 360 miles southwest of the capital Ankara.
He has remained in custody for the last 18 months, facing charges that he helped support Turkish soldiers who tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. Brunson has denied any wrongdoing.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason,” Trump said in a Twitter post on April 17, 2018.
“They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is,” the US president said. “Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”
Trump’s declaration that “I am more a spy” than Brunson is hits at the crux of Turkey’s argument about Brunson and the vast swath of the Turkish population arrested and accused of subverting Erdogan’s government.
Some people did a double-take on Trump calling himself a spy.
In an apparent gesture to coax Turkey into freeing Brunson, the US dropped charges against members of Erdogan’s security detail who were accused of brawling with protesters during the Turkish president’s visit to the US in 2017.
By all accounts, Turkey was unmoved.