USA pastor Andrew Brunson is freed after two years in Turkish prison

13 October, 2018, 01:42 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson Reportedly Set to be Released by Turkish Government

President Trump denounced his imprisonment as a "total disgrace", while Vice President Mike Pence threatened to "impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free". Another witness for the prosecution said she did not know Brunson.

President Donald Trump tweeted - after global press reported the verdict - that he was '[w] orking very hard on Pastor Brunson!'

Turkey bristled at suggestions that its judicial system is a foreign policy instrument, and has accused the US of trying to bend Turkish courts to its will with tariffs in August that helped to send the Turkish currency into freefall.

Brunson, 50, has lived in Turkey for more than two decades. He had been under house arrest since July.

An American evangelical Christian pastor at the centre of a row between Ankara and Washington looked set to fly home on Friday after a Turkish court freed him, a move that may signal a step towards mending ties between the allies.

The decision will mark a step toward improved relations between the US and Turkey. I'm glad this bad chapter is closed, and I applaud President Trump for taking strong action to help secure Pastor Brunson's freedom.

In August, the US imposed sanctions on two Turkish cabinet ministers in direct retaliation for Turkey's continued detention of Brunson, as NPR's Colin Dwyer reports.

A Turkish court ruled on Friday to release United States pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, sentencing him instead to three years in jail but saying he would not spend any more time in custody because of time already served.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Trump tweeted: "Working very hard on Pastor Brunson!"

Image copyright EPA Image caption Members of Mr Brunson's church celebrated in front of his house after he was released What was he accused of? He is one of thousands caught up in a Turkish government crackdown following a failed 2016 coup against the Turkish government.

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Another witness was asked by the prosecutor why he believed Brunson was connected to terrorist groups. He denied all the charges.

U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson has left Turkey and will land at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Saturday afternoon, according to the White House.

The court near the western city of Izmir on Friday sentenced Andrew Brunson to 3 years and 1 month in prison for the conviction, but since the evangelical pastor has already spent two years in detention he won't serve more time.

The pastor was arrested on December 9, 2016, on charges of being member of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

A panel of judges is expected to reach an interim ruling later Friday. He was accused of contacting people linked to Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Turkish cleric living in exile in the USA whom Erdogan has blamed for the coup. He rejects the charges and strongly maintains his innocence.

Two senior administration officials said there was no deal with Turkey for Brunson. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, told Reuters that active engagement by Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contributed to Brunson's release.

After two years of prison and detention, Pastor Andrew Brunson has been released after one final hearing in a Turkish court.

Four of the witnesses in the case changed their testimonies that allowed the court to reduce Brunson's sentence, following mounting speculation he would soon be released.

He had faced up to 35 years in jail on charges of aiding terror groups and espionage.

Brunson also allegedly had information about a possible coup attempt before July 2016 as one of his text phone messages to a United States soldier showed his support for the coup plotters, the indictment said.

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