U.S. pas­tor con­victed of ter­ror, then re­leased

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Zeynep Bil­gin­soy Zeynep Bil­gin­soy is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

ALIAGA, Turkey — A Turk­ish court on Fri­day con­victed an Amer­i­can pas­tor on ter­ror charges but re­leased him from house ar­rest and al­lowed him to leave the coun­try, a move that’s likely to ease ten­sions be­tween Turkey and the United States.

The court near the western city of Izmir sen­tenced An­drew Brun­son to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison for al­legedly help­ing ter­ror groups. But since the evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor had al­ready spent nearly two years in de­ten­tion, Turk­ish law al­lowed him to re­main free with time served.

The ear­lier charge of es­pi­onage against him was dropped.

Hours later, Brun­son was trans­ported to Izmir’s air­port and was flown out of Turkey, where he had lived for over two decades.

Brun­son, a na­tive of North Carolina whose de­ten­tion had sparked a diplo­matic dis­pute be­tween the two NATO al­lies, had re­jected the es­pi­onage and ter­ror­re­lated charges and strongly main­tained his in­no­cence.

The 50-year-old na­tive of North Carolina had faced up to 35 years in jail if con­victed of all the charges. With tears in his eyes, he hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the de­ci­sion Fri­day.

Wash­ing­ton had re­peat­edly called for Brun­son’s re­lease and in Au­gust had slapped sanc­tions on Turkey.

Brun­son was one of thou­sands caught up in a wide­spread govern­ment crack­down that fol­lowed a failed coup against the Turk­ish govern­ment in July 2016.

He was ac­cused of com­mit­ting crimes on be­half of ter­ror groups and of al­leged links to out­lawed Kur­dish mil­i­tants and a net­work led by a U.S.-based Turk­ish cleric who is ac­cused of or­ches­trat­ing the coup at­tempt.

“I am an in­no­cent man. I love Je­sus. I love Turkey,” Brun­son told the court Fri­day, speak­ing in Turk­ish.

AFP / Getty Im­ages

U.S. pas­tor An­drew Brun­son (left) is es­corted to his home fol­low­ing a trial in western Izmir prov­ince.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.