US pas­tor in tears at be­ing set free from Turk­ish jail

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Our For­eign Staff

A TURK­ISH court yes­ter­day re­leased An­drew Brun­son, the Amer­i­can pas­tor whose de­ten­tion had eroded re­la­tions be­tween the Nato al­lies and dam­aged Turkey’s econ­omy.

Pros­e­cu­tors had charged the evan­gel­i­cal protes­tant pas­tor with sup­port for Kur­dish mil­i­tants and Fethul­lah Gülen, the Us-based preacher who is ac­cused by Turkey of mas­ter­mind­ing a failed coup in 2016.

The crack­down by Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan, the Turk­ish pres­i­dent, fol­low­ing the at­tempted coup led to the ar­rest of thou­sands, in­clud­ing Mr Brun­son. The move prompted US tar­iffs that choked the Turk­ish econ­omy.

Mr Brun­son’s re­lease was wel­comed by Don­ald Trump, the US pres­i­dent, who wrote on Twit­ter: “Pas­tor Brun­son just re­leased. Will be home soon.”

The pas­tor wept in re­lief as the court in Aliaga sen­tenced him to three and a half years in jail, mean­ing he would be re­leased with time served.

“I am an in­no­cent man. I love Je­sus, I love Turkey,” Mr Brun­son, who had lived in the coun­try for more than 20 years, told the court. He was convicted of ter­ror charges but the sen­tenc­ing seemed cal­cu­lated to save face while re­leas­ing the pas­tor. Ten­sions with Wash­ing­ton had seen the Turk­ish lira fall by 40 per cent.

His re­lease will be wel­comed by the Repub­li­cans’ evan­gel­i­cal base and could pro­vide a boost for the party in next month’s con­gres­sional elec­tions.

Mr Trump said Mr Brun­son would visit the Oval Of­fice, pos­si­bly to­day.

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