Christian pastor Andrew Brunson released and allowed to leave Turkey

Larry Hoffman
October 13, 2018

Brunson, who was detained in a Turkish prison until he was moved to house arrest in July, was convicted of terrorism and espionage charges, which his lawyers have denied as baseless.

After the ruling, Mr Brunson's lawyer told reporters the pastor was likely to leave Turkey.

"I am an innocent man".

Two senior administration officials said there was no deal with Turkey for Brunson.

Those key testimonies were thrown into doubt after today's hearing. Trump and Erdogan met briefly on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September for the first time since relations soured over Brunson.

Further moves which have been discussed include the return to Turkey of bank executive Mehmet Hakan Attila to serve out his sentence, the release of the U.S. consular staff, and agreement that the U.S. Treasury avoid draconian steps against Halkbank, the state lender.

Gulen, who is a lawful permanent resident of the US living in Pennsylvania, has denied that allegation.

Three other people detained in Turkey have further fueled strain between the USA and Turkey.

Brunson said in a statement on Friday that he was heading home soon.

Washington had repeatedly called for Brunson's release and in August had slapped sanctions on Turkey. But at the hearing, Yilmaz Demircan, the alleged source of this information, denied ever saying so.

His release came after a dramatic court appearance on Friday, when a judge ordered his sentence reduced making him free to fly home to the US.

Brunson appeared in the courtroom in the western coastal town of Aliaga wearing a black suit, white shirt and red tie. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan's accusations. "Give him to us", Erdogan said.

Kalkan, in response, told the court only that he "was shocked" by what Surer had said.

Brunson was arrested in Turkey in October 2016 and was accused of having connections to Kurdish militants and plotting a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The ACLJ said Brunson was targeted because of his Christian faith.

President Trump cheered the decision on Twitter.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday that the USA was hopeful he would soon go free but said she was unaware of any agreement on his release. It's been an extremely hard time for our family and we want to express our appreciation to the millions of people around the world who have faithfully prayed for this day. He singles out the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Sam Brownback, and Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina).

US President Donald Trump, who has imposed sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to put pressure on the country to release Brunson, tweeted: "PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED".

Some commentators have suggested that in order to procure America intervention - particularly against the Saudis, who Trump considers a firm ally - Turkey should release all of its American hostages - starting with Pastor Brunson.

Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also tweeted out his thanks.

Kerem said Pastor Brunson stood for more than his own freedom.

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