Turk­ish court to re­lease US pas­tor Brun­son af­ter two-year de­ten­tion

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD -

A Turk­ish court ruled on Fri­day to re­lease the US evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian pas­tor at the cen­ter of a bit­ter diplo­matic row be­tween Ankara and Wash­ing­ton, a move that could be the first step to­ward mend­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween the NATO al­lies.

The court passed a 3 years and 1-1/2 month sen­tence on An­drew Brun­son, who had been charged with ter­ror­ism of­fences, but said he would not serve any fur­ther time be­cause he had al­ready been de­tained since Oc­to­ber 2016.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day said he hoped Brun­son would be home safe soon, shortly af­ter the court rul­ing.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Pas­tor Brun­son, and we hope to have him safely back home soon,” Trump wrote on Twit­ter.

Wit­nesses said Brun­son wept as the de­ci­sion was an- nounced. Be­fore the judge’s rul­ing, the pas­tor told the court: “I am an in­no­cent man. I love Je­sus, I love Turkey.”

The case against Brun­son, an evan­gel­i­cal preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years and was ar­rested two years ago, had led to US tar­iffs against Turkey and drawn con­dem­na­tion from Trump.

Brun­son was charged with links to Kur­dish mil­i­tants and sup­port­ers of Fethul­lah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a failed coup at­tempt in 2016. Brun­son de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion and Wash­ing­ton had de­manded his im­me­di­ate re­lease.

Ear­lier, wit­nesses told the court that tes­ti­monies at­trib­uted to them against the pas­tor were in­ac­cu­rate, height­en­ing ex­pec­ta­tions that Brun­son could be re­leased and re­turned to the US.

Brun­son ap­peared in the court­room in the western coastal town of Aliaga wear­ing a black suit, white shirt and red tie. His wife Norine looked on from the vis­i­tors’ seat­ing area as he lis­tened to tes­ti­mony from de­fence and pros­e­cu­tion wit­nesses.

Brun­son will likely re­turn to the US af­ter the court rul­ing, Brun­son’s lawyer said.

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