Turk­ish court finds pas­tor Brun­son guilty, re­leases him for time al­ready served

In the fourth hear­ing in the case against Amer­i­can pas­tor An­drew Brun­son, who was ac­cused of es­pi­onage and ter­ror-re­lated charges, a court in Izmir con­victed him but lifted all ju­di­cial con­trols and re­leased him af­ter ac­count­ing for penalty re­duc­tions and

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

A TURK­ISH court or­dered the re­lease of evan­gel­i­cal Amer­i­can pas­tor An­drew Brun­son yes­ter­day in the fourth hear­ing of an es­pi­onage case that caused a diplo­matic dis­pute be­tween Turkey and the United States. The court sen­tenced Brun­son to three years, one month and 15 days in prison, but or­dered his re­lease for time served since he spent two years in cus­tody dur­ing the trial. Izmir Heavy Pe­nal Court No.2, in ac­cor­dance with its rul­ing, also ended his house ar­rest and travel ban. On early Fri­day, Brun­son was taken from his house – where he had been un­der house ar­rest since July 25 – un­der strict se­cu­rity and brought to the prison and court­house com­plex in the Ali­ağa dis­trict of western Izmir prov­ince for the trial. In the first part of the hear­ing that took place Fri­day morn­ing, three wit­nesses re­tracted their pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mony sug­gest­ing Brun­son’s links to ter­ror­ist groups, in­clud­ing the Gülenist Ter­ror Group (FETÖ) and the PKK, and de­nied any knowl­edge about Brun­son’s pos­si­ble links with the groups. “I love Turkey. I’m in­no­cent. I ex­pect to be ac­quit­ted of all charges,” Brun­son said in his plea, which took place in a late af­ter­noon ses­sion. The pros­e­cu­tor de­manded up to 10 years in prison for ter­ror charges while ask­ing ju­di­cial con­trol mea­sures to be lifted. His lawyer said that would mean he would be free to leave the coun­try im­me­di­ately.

IN A typ­i­cal case for es­pi­onagere­lated charges, sus­pects have pre­vi­ously re­ceived three-to-five year sen­tences. Pre­vi­ously, Can Dün­dar, for­mer ed­i­tor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, was also sen­tenced to five years and 10 months for es­pi­onage-re­lated charges.

Brun­son’s Lawyer Is­mail Cem Halavurt said on Fri­day Brun­son was ex­pected to leave Turkey for the U.S. shortly.

Halavurt also said that the sen­tence was not ac­cepted and that an ap­peal will be made to the court.

Re­la­tions be­tween Turkey and the United States were strained over the past few months by the trial of Brun­son in Turkey on ter­ror­ism charges. Brun­son, who has worked as an evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor at the Evan­gelic Res­ur­rec­tion Church in the western city of Izmir for the past 20 years, was ar­rested in Turkey in Septem­ber 2016 for al­leged links to the PKK and FETÖ, the group that or­ches­trated a coup at­tempt on July 15, 2016. On July 25, cit­ing Brun­son’s health prob­lems, an Izmir court or­dered him moved from jail to house ar­rest.

Brun­son is charged with the “seizure of con­fi­den­tial state in­for­ma­tion for the pur­poses of pol­i­tics and mil­i­tary es­pi­onage and at­tempt­ing to abol­ish the Grand Na­tional Assem­bly of Turkey, the govern­ment of Turk­ish Repub­lic and con­sti­tu­tional or­der.” The pas­tor faced 35 years in jail on charges of es­pi­onage and com­mit­ting crimes on be­half of FETÖ and the PKK. He was moved from jail to house ar­rest last July due to health con­cerns.

On the Turk­ish side, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan said Tues­day in re­la­tion to the is­sue that: “Since Turkey is a state of law, I am not in a po­si­tion to in­ter­fere with the ju­di­ciary. What­ever the ju­di­ciary de­cides, I have to com­ply with that de­ci­sion. Those in­volved with this also need to abide by the ju­di­ciary’s de­ci­sion.”

Fol­low­ing the ar­rest of Brun­son, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who re­ceived 81 per­cent of the evan­gel­i­cal vote in the 2016 elec­tions, made it abun­dantly clear that the United States ex­pects Turkey to re­lease Brun­son im­me­di­ately and pushed dead­lines for his re­lease. Ac­cord­ingly, U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence also threat­ened Turkey by say­ing, “Re­lease Brun­son now or be pre­pared to face the con­se­quences.” How­ever, Turkey re­fused the de­mands, em­pha­siz­ing that it was a ju­di­cial case. Shortly af­ter the court an­nounced the de­ci­sion, Trump sent a tweet on Fri­day, say­ing, “Work­ing very hard on Pas­tor Brun­son!”

“My thoughts and prayers are with Pas­tor Brun­son, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!” Trump wrote in an­other tweet. Wash­ing­ton slammed sanc­tions on Turk­ish In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sü­ley­man Soylu and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ab­dül­hamit Gül due to their “lead­ing roles in the or­ga­ni­za­tions re­spon­si­ble for the ar­rest and de­ten­tion of Brun­son.” More- over, the U.S. Congress passed a bill de­lay­ing the de­liv­ery of new gen­er­a­tion fighter F-35 air­craft to Turkey.

Trump also dou­bled tar­iffs on Turk­ish alu­minum and steel on Aug. 10 to co­erce Turkey into mak­ing a de­ci­sion. Ten­sions fur­ther mounted be­tween the two NATO al­lies as the tar­iffs and sanc­tions led to a plunge of around 40 per­cent in the value of the lira against the dol­lar this year.

How­ever, Er­doğan re­mained de­fi­ant over the slid­ing lira and vowed Turkey will not be brought to its knees through eco­nomic ma­nip­u­la­tion. Ac­cord­ingly, Ankara re­sponded in kind by rais­ing tar­iffs to 100 per­cent on sev­eral U.S. prod­ucts, in­clud­ing al­co­hol, to­bacco and cars. Many coun­tries, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, Pak­istan and China, ex­pressed their sup­port for Turkey. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel also crit­i­cized Wash­ing­ton by say­ing that it is in every­one’s in­ter­est for Turkey to be “eco­nom­i­cally pros­per­ous.

Amer­i­can pas­tor An­drew Brun­son (C) trav­els in a po­lice ve­hi­cle es­corted by Turk­ish po­lice as he en­ters Ali­ağa Prison Court at Ali­ağa dis­trict in western Izmir prov­ince, Oct. 12.

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