Trump praises Erdogan in meeting with pastor jailed in Turkey
US President Donald Trump on Monday praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting with former prisoners, including a Christian pastor once jailed in Turkey.
In a question-and-answer session with Americans who had been jailed abroad, Trump told Pastor Andrew Brunson that Erdogan had "was very good" to him personally.
"To me, President Erdogan was very good," Trump said in a video shot at the White House. The president's remarks followed an account from Brunson of his 21 months in a Turkish jail on terror charges.
Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean port of Izmir for more than 20 years, was detained in 2016 in a sweeping nationwide crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a failed coup attempt.
He was freed in October last year after Trump's administration announced a doubling of tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, causing a sharp fall in the lira against the dollar.
Turkey is officially secular and recognises its historic Christian communities, but Brunson said that the small Protestant community was facing growing difficulties.
Owing to the lack of official standing, Protestant churches are generally driven by foreigners who Brunson said were being forced out of Turkey at a growing rate.Both Trump and Erdogan have long denied reports of a secret deal to secure Brunson's October 2018 release.
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