US pastor in tears at being set free from Turkish jail
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.