Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was again praised by U.S. President Donald Trump, this time at an event with an American pastor who was illegally imprisoned and taken hostage in Turkey for over two years.
At a roundtable organized in the margins of a Republican Conference, Trump officially received the nomination for the presidential elections. Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in October 2016 in Turkey and held for two years on charges of complicity with the Fethullah Gülen movement and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), was in attendance.
Brunson spent two years in Turkish prison and house arrest until his release in October 2018 – shortly before the U.S. midterm elections – following economic and political pressure on the Erdoğan regime by Trump and other U.S. officials.
For his part, Brunson expressed his gratitude to the Trump administration for its efforts to repatriate him.
“I was held in Turkey for two years and you took unprecedented steps actually, to secure my release and your administration really fought for me, and I think if you hadn’t done that, I’d may still be in Turkey,” the pastor said.
“They had you scheduled for a long time,” Trump replied. “We had to get you back.”
However, it was Trump’s next statement that surely made things awkward with Brunson.
“I have to say, to me, President Erdoğan was very good. And I know they had you scheduled for a long time and you were a very innocent person… and he ultimately, after we had a few conversations he agreed. So we appreciate that and we appreciate the people of Turkey. And you still appreciate the people of Turkey, I understand, right?” said the American president.
Brunson responded back by saying “We love the Turkish people.”
President Trump to Andrew Brunson: "I have to say that, to me, President Erdogan was very good."
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 25, 2020
This of course is of little surprise considering how deep and long Trump’s relations with Erdoğan are, so much so that former National Security Adviser John Bolton describes it as a “bromance,” as reported by Greek City Times.