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ACLJ meets with Trump to discuss case of American pastor jailed in Turkey

(YouTube/OfficialACLJ)Pastor Andrew Brunson appears in a screen capture of a video from the YouTube channel of the American Center for Law and Justice.

The conservative law group American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) met with President Donald Trump on Thursday to discuss the case of American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been languishing in a Turkish prison since last fall on supposed terror link charges.

Brunson, who served as a pastor of a Protestant church in Turkey's West Coast town of Izmir for 23 years, was detained in October due to his alleged ties to a terrorist organization.

ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said he met with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the pastor's case and the results of the meeting had been positive.

"The president and vice president have taken a personal interest in resolving this," Sekulow told Fox News. "They are fully engaged. The vice president has told me that he has been in talks with officials in Turkey," he added.

Sekulow said he respectfully urged Trump to bring up the pastor's case in his scheduled meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington on May 16.

"I have full confidence that this matter will be successfully resolved in short order," said Sekulow.

Brunson has not been indicted but he was accused of having ties to the American-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, who is being blamed by Erdogan for the coup attempt last July.

The pastor was detained along with his wife on Oct. 7 last year when he was officially summoned to a local police station in Izmir. He thought he was called in to receive a long-awaited permanent residence card, but he was told that he was being deported for being a "threat to national security."

His wife was released 12 days later, but he was later transferred to a counter-terrorism center, where he was questioned and charged with "membership in an armed terrorist organization."

According to the ACLJ, Turkey has acknowledged that there is not enough evidence against Brunson. The law group has maintained that the pastor is being held because of his Christian faith.

Brunson's family have attended high-level meetings on Capitol Hill to urge key Senators and the State Department to secure the release of the pastor.

"For 23 years, I saw him love and serve the people of Turkey. It was a shock when this peaceful man was accused of being part of an armed terrorist group, an accusation that is clearly nonsense," said Pam Brunson, the pastor's mother.

"He has been in prison seven months, and having visited him there [this past January], I have seen the tremendous struggles he is experiencing. I wake every morning with a deep sadness. Yet, because of the huge outpouring of prayers by God's people, God has sustained him and I believe he will be delivered," she added.

Apart from the meetings with U.S. officials, the ACLJ has also submitted written and oral statements to the United Nation, asking the organization to pressure Turkey into releasing Brunson. More than 280,000 people have signed ACLJ's petition to bring the pastor back to the U.S.

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