President Trump calls for Black Mountain pastor's release from Turkey
President Trump and Vice President Pence have made a direct appeal to Turkish President Erdogan during their meeting this week in Washington D.C. for the expeditious release of Black Mountain Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Brunson was jailed in October 2016 in Turkey where he was a pastor at Izmir Resurrection Church. President Trump raised the issue of Brunson's imprisonment reportedly three times during Tuesday's meeting.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian-based advocacy group in D.C., has taken the lead to help get Brunson freed and to get the ear of President Trump. CeCe Heil, ACLJ's senior counsel, thinks the request by Trump will have an impact.
"Absolutely, when you have the President of the United States making a direct demand to a NATO ally, to President Erdogan, I think that it's going to make a huge difference. We're expecting a successful outcome," Heil said.
She said Brunson's family is in Black Mountain.
"As you can imagine they were incredibly distraught and shocked by this occurrence," Heil said. "Frustrated and confused. It's the unknown."
Brunson's arrest came after July's failed military Turkish coup that resulted in a crackdown against opposition, which included Christians. Reverend Brian Smith with Evangelical Presbyterian Churches has also tried to help.
"It's obviously significant that the top levels of our government are involved and advocating," Smith said. "Our understanding is he's sharing a cell with eight other individuals they believe was designed for fewer than that. Most of all, our concern is for his safety."