Turkish court rules to release U.S. pastor Andrew BrunsonAndrew Brunson, the United States pastor at the center of a diplomatic storm between the U.S. and Turkey, will fly home to the U.S. after western Izmir province’s Second High Criminal Court sentenced him to three years and one month 15 days incarceration, but included the time already spent in custody and thereafter released him. The court lifted judicial restrictions imposed on Brunson, allowing him to exit Turkey and go back home to America.
Witnesses present in the courtroom saw Brunson weeping as the verdict was announced on October 12. The pastor earlier claimed to be an innocent person who loves both Turkey and Jesus Christ. This release, to the surprise of both American and Turkish political observers, points to the thawing relations between Washington and Ankara as the latter seeks American help to investigate the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist seemingly abducted last week.
On the early hours of October 12, Turkish police officers took Brunson from his residence where he was under house arrest from July 25 and transported him to the courthouse cum prison complex located in western Izmir's Aliaga district for trial. The subsequent hearing saw three witnesses retracting their previous three testimonies hinting at Brunson's connection with a number of terrorist groups, like the PKK and Gulenist Terror Group (FETO). The witnesses denied any knowledge about the possible link of Brunson with these groups. Brunson was earlier moved from the prison where he was incarcerated into house arrest. This court appearance was his fourth to face a number of allegations concerning links to the outlawed PKK and the Gulenist movement. The Turkish Erdogan Government claims the Gulenists were behind the failed military coup in 2016.
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President Donald Trump, who made the Brunson case a priority in U.S. foreign policy, told reporters the pastor will touch down at a military base located at a short distance away from Washington and in all probability make a visit to the White House on the same day. Trump said his administration was extremely happy to have the pastor back on American soil.
According to U.S. media, Brunson was released as part of a secret deal negotiated between Washington and Ankara. It is hoped that the deal will lift sanctions imposed by both countries over one-another. The effect of these sanctions on the lira was a crushing one, with the Turkish currency suffering a sharp dip. The Trump administration denied the existence of any deal on this matter.