Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

American pastor Andrew Brunson released by Turkish court

American pastor Andrew Brunson released by Turkish court

NBC's sources said an agreement on Brunson's release was advanced in discussions last month between Turkish and USA officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, during the United Nations General Assembly in NY. Prosecutors had sought a 35-year sentence.

Brunson's wife, Norine, looked on from the visitors' area.

Previously arrested for links with FETO, Brunson is brought to the courthouse and arrested again on charges of espionage and support for the coup.

Fahrettin Altun, the communications director of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, voiced objection to Trump's comments in a tweet that the US had worked "very hard" over the case of the pastor.

Brunson's continued detention - and Erdogan's refusal to release him despite intense pressure from the White House - was a significant factor in a precipitous decline in U.S. -Turkey relations in recent months.

Pastor Andrew Brunson is expected to be released within the coming days, according to two senior Trump administration officials briefed on the matter.

Brunson, who had maintained his innocence throughout the the trial, ran a small Evangelical Presbyterian parish in the coastal city of Izmir with about 50 members.

"I love Jesus, I love Turkey", he said. But the new witnesses didn't confirm Kalkan's story and another prosecution witness said she did not even know Brunson.

Following the trial, US President Donald Trump expressed his satisfaction with the decision of the court on his Twitter.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan, meanwhile, had said Turkey won't extradite anyone to the US until USA extradites Gulen.

With Brunson out, the main issue between Turkey and the USA now, a Turkish diplomat told MEE, is the "US ambition to create an autonomous state for the YPG in Syria".

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Brunson has been accused of aiding terrorist groups as well as participation in a 2016 attempted coup. They "form a key part of Trump's base and have long advocated for increased protections on religious freedom in the US and overseas".

The U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey in August due to the dispute over Brunson.

Brunson is a North Carolina native with wife and three kids who pastored a Presbyterian church in Turkey.

But a top Turkish official criticized Trump's tweets claiming that he was "working hard" to get the pastor's release.

The judge at Brunson's latest hearing sentenced him to time served and subsequently released him, Fox News reports.

Prosecutors accused Brunson of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups, linking him to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a USA -based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

"I am an innocent human being", Brunson told the court near the city of Izmir, where he led a church he established and tended to for almost a decade.

William Devlin, an evangelical pastor from NY spoke to reporters outside the Turkish prison, saying hundreds of thousands of Christians were praying for Brunson's release.

"We are joyful and so thankful for Pastor Brunson's long-awaited freedom".

Pence also tweeted about Brunson's release.

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