This week’s issue of TIME features a story about President Trump’s efforts to free U.S. citizens held captive abroad.
The death of Otto Warmbier, a college student from Ohio, just days after he was released from a North Korean prison with devastating brain injuries, made news in June. Other cases remain. Three Americans are still in prison in North Korea. Joshua Holt, an Eagle Scout from Utah, has been detained without due process in Venezuela for more than one year. At least four others are currently imprisoned in Iran. A North Carolina pastor is jailed in Turkey.
In response to emailed questions from TIME, Trump said he will deal forcefully with foreign adversaries who hold U.S. citizens. He also says that behind the scenes, others have been released beyond Aya Hijazi, the American aid worker freed in April from an Egyptian prison. He did not indicate who else had been freed.
The full story is available online here. Here’s what Trump had to say:
On his role freeing Aya Hijazi in April, and on the release of other captives:
“The Egyptians and President Al Sisi were right to release Aya Hijazi and I thank them for doing the right thing. There have been other releases, some that we can’t talk about. I believe they did this because of my relationship with President Al Sisi. President Obama tried and failed many times over three years, but we were able to get this done in a very short period and that is an amazing victory for Aya and her family. I want all other nations who are holding our citizens unjustly to do the right thing. There are also terrorist groups and criminal organizations that take our people for leverage against the United States. These groups must release our hostages.”
On this message to governments holding Americans overseas:
“The United States condemns hostage takers and nations that detain our citizens without just cause or due process. My Administration is greatly increasing efforts to bring home all Americans unjustly detained abroad.”
On how his message is different from the Obama Administration’s:
“We are aggressively pursuing the release of our people. We will leave no lawful tool, partnership or recovery option off the table.”
On how he decides when to get tough or make a deal with governments like Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Turkey that are holding American citizens:
“I am always tough on countries or terrorists groups that hold our people hostage or detain them on fake charges and keep them captive in hellish locations far from their family and loved ones.”
On his message to the families of current captives:
“The families of hostages go through hell, plain and simple. These families deserve the compassion and respect of our entire nation. My administration is going to leave off the table no lawful options at getting our people back. We will stay in close contact with the families of hostages. We will respect their grief, listen to their concerns, and tell them what we know about their loved one and what we are doing to get them back.”
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