Pro gov’t daily: Trump hired lawyer for pastor jailed over Gülen links

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American pastor Andrew Brunson (R) and US President Donald Trump

Ergun Diler, editor-in-chief of the pro-government Takvim daily, claimed in his column on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump has hired a lawyer for American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed in Turkey in October due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Diler wrote that Trump has retained his most trusted attorney, Jay Sekulow, to rescue Brunson from prison and that a special and “deep” meeting was held at the White House with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as Trump to discuss how Brunson could be rescued.

According to Diler, Sekulow said at the meeting: “It has to be shown to the world that Pastor Andrew Brunson is a cleric and that there is no legal order in Turkey. If we proceed along this path, Turkey will in time have to offer Brunson’s release.”

Diler wrote that all three US officials were following Sekulow’s suggestions and building a network against Turkey.

The journalist also suggested that Brunson was a member of the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) just as Jake Raak, an American citizen who was injured during a terrorist attack on a nightclub in İstanbul on New Year’s Eve. Diler claimed that Raak was an American agent working for US Army intelligence and that it was no coincidence his name was heard 20 days after Brunson’s arrest.

Brunson, a North Carolina native, has been in custody since October after he and his wife were detained on immigration violation charges. At the time, the Brunsons were running a small Christian church in İzmir. They had lived in Turkey for 23 years.

Brunson’s wife, Norine, was soon released, but the pastor remained in custody and soon saw his charges upgraded to terrorism. Prosecutors have suggested in court hearings that Brunson is being held on suspicion of being a follower of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric living in self-exile in Pennsylvania and whose views inspired the Gülen movement.

Takvim previously accused Brunson, whose release Trump sought from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting at the White House in May, of being behind a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, claiming that he would be the CIA chief if the coup attempt had been successful.

According to CNN Türk, both Trump and Pence brought up the issue of Brunson’s release at a meeting between the Turkish and American delegations during Erdoğan’s US visit.

A statement released by the White House also said Trump asked for Brunson’s release three times and his immediate deportation to the US during the meeting with Erdoğan.
Brunson’s lawyer, Sekulow, who met with Trump before the Erdoğan meeting, announced that Trump promised to rescue his client from jail.

Takvim is part of the Turkuvaz media group, which is run by Serhat Albayrak, brother of Berat Albayrak, energy minister and the son-in law of President Erdoğan.

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