During the opening night of the Republican National Convention Monday, President Donald Trump appeared at the White House with six U.S. citizens captured abroad that had been freed through efforts under his administration.
Those six freed hostages included U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, Pastor Andrew Brunson, Pastor Bryan Nerren, Sam Goodwin, and Joshua and Thamara Holt. During the Republican convention Monday night, the freed Americans went around the room sharing a brief summary of their experience being detained abroad and eventually winning release.
Brunson was imprisoned in Turkey for over two years, under accusations he was involved in terrorist activity. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison in Turkey but was released in October of 2018.
During the political event, Pastor Brunson credited Trump with taking “unprecedented steps” to secure his release. He said, “I think if you hadn’t done that, I may still be in Turkey.”
Goodwin was captured by the Syrian government in May of 2019 held in Syria for 63 days before being released in July of 2019, CNN reported. On Monday night Goodwin said, “I think I speak for my fellow former hostages and detainees here when I say I’m as grateful as I’ve ever been for anything to be home safely.”
Goodwin went on to specifically thank White House National Security Robert O’Brien, who formerly served as the U.S. Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, for helping secure Goodwin’s release. He said, “Thank you for promoting [O’Brien].”
White, the Navy veteran, was visiting his girlfriend in Iran, when he was detained by Iranian authorities in July of 2018. He was set free in June of this year, after having endured two years in the Iranian justice system and in an Iranian prison.
“I went through a lot in their ‘injustice system,” White said. “Iran is an impressive, extortionist, terrorist regime. You know what I’m talking about.”
White said the efforts of the Trump administration got him out “in record time.”
Joshua Holt of Utah and his wife Thamara Holt, who is Venezuelan, were detained after he had travelled to Venezuela for their wedding in 2016. They planned to vacation in the country while they awaited visas for her and her two children, but were arrested on weapon’s charges but never tried. The married couple was eventually freed in May of 2018.
Josh Holt thanked Trump and former Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch for negotiating his and his wife’s release. He said, “I was blown away. I had just gotten released after two years, then I’m shaking the hand of the president in the Oval Office.”
Pastor Nerren was travelling through India on his way to do missionary work in Nepal in October of 2019 when he was detained in India in October of 2019. He was released in May of 2020, Daily News Journal reported. Nerren was held under suspicion for bringing too much money with him in his travel through India. He said he brought $40,000 with him for missionary work, helping impoverished people in Nepal. The original charges against Nerran were dropped but new charges were brought that would have imprisoned Nerran for three to five years.
Trump said, “Well India responded very well to my request” to release Nerren.
Trump thanked all the six U.S. citizens for attending the event and said, “We have a few more people we want to get back and we will get them back and they’ll be back very soon.”