Freed US pastor flying home from Turkey after case sparked crisis
Washington, United States - An American pastor held for two years in Turkey was expected back in the US on Saturday after a court freed him in a case that sparked a crisis in Ankara’s ties with Washington and trouble for its economy.
The court in the western town of Aliaga convicted Andrew Craig Brunson on terror-related charges and sentenced him to three years, one month and 15 days in jail, an AFP correspondent said.
However, he was released taking into account time served and his good conduct during the trial, with the court lifting his house arrest and overseas travel ban.
After briefly going back to nearby Izmir to collect belongings, Brunson was driven to the city’s airport where he boarded a US military plane.
Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany, later tweeted a picture showing Brunson kissing an American flag he was given at an airbase where the plane landed for refueling.
“He’s almost home thanks to @realDonaldTrump. When I presented him with the US flag, he immediately kissed it. #agratefulnation,” wrote Grenell.
The US President had pressed Turkey to release Brunson, who has become a cause celebre for Donald Trump’s conservative Christian base.
Trump said he would meet the pastor as soon as he returns.
“Good news, Pastor Brunson is in the air,” Trump told reporters as he arrived in Cincinnati on a campaign stop ahead of congressional elections. “He is coming to the Oval Office, most likely on Saturday.”
Andrew Craig Brunson