The Trump administration is determined to bring American prisoners held in other countries back to the United States, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, currently standing trial in Turkey, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an interview with CBS on Sunday.
“First, everyone should know that this administration is intent on bringing home every American who is held anywhere in the world. We’ve got Pastor Brunson in Turkey that we desperately need to get back,” said Pompeo when asked about three detainees recently released by North Korea and four Americans held in Iran, according to a State Department press release.
Brunson, who has been living in Turkey for two decades, is charged with membership in both the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). If convicted, Brunson could face up to 35 years in prison.
A secret witness in the second hearing of Brunson’s trial on May 7 claimed that the pastor helped PKK militants and hoped to create a Christian Kurdish state.
The State Department had previously said it had seen “no credible evidence” that Brunson was guilty of a crime. Top US officials have raised the pastor’s case in meetings with Turkish authorities and have called for Brunson’s release.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had claimed that Brunson’s case was a legal one. “They say ’the government should release him.’ Is it up to me? This is a decision the judiciary will make,” Çavuşoğlu told broadcaster CNN Türk in an interview.