Trump urges Turkey's President Erdoğan to release jailed Christian pastor

ReutersUS President Donald Trump (L) welcomes Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House yesterday.

President Donald Trump has used a White House meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to urge the Turkish leader to expedite the release of jailed Christian pastor Andrew Brunson.

Brunson has been detained since October when he and his wife were held on immigration violation charges after running a small church in Izmir, Turkey. His charges have since escalated to accusations of terrorism, though Turkey has produced no evidence for their claims.

Trump met with Erdoğan yesterday and reportedly took the opportunity to pressure him to secure Brunson's release.

'President Trump raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish government expeditiously return him to the United States,' the White House said in a press release following the leaders' meeting, according to the Daily Caller.

The American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a religious freedom advocacy group, announced on Monday it had submitted a formal statement to theUnited Nations Human Rights Council over Brunson's case.

The ACLJ appealed to the UN for Brunson's quick release, and said that Turkey was violating essential principles of liberty and human rights on the basis of his peaceful Christian expression.

Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ wrote yesterday in praise of Trump's advocacy with president Erdoğan.

FacebookAndrew and Norine Brunson were arrested in October following a crackdown after a failed military coup.

'Last week, I urged the President and the Vice President when I met with them in the White House to raise Pastor Andrew's case with Turkish leaders. Today, they did just that, raising his plight directly to President Erdoğan,' he wrote.

He reported that Trump had raised Brunson's case three times during the meeting.

He added: 'This is exactly what we asked the President to do and is a major sign of significant progress toward bringing Pastor Andrew home.'

It is not clear how Erdoğan responded to Trump's appeal, but he made no public statement on the matter. In the joint White House press conference, Trump said the US' relationship with Turkey would be 'unbeatable'.