Amer­i­can convicted, flies out of Turkey

The Expositor (Brantford) - - CLASSIFIEDS - ZEYNEP BILGINSOY THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

IZMIR, Turkey — A Turk­ish court on Fri­day convicted an Amer­i­can pas­tor of ter­ror links but re­leased him from house ar­rest and al­lowed him to leave the coun­try, re­mov­ing a ma­jor ir­ri­tant in fraught ties be­tween two NATO al­lies that still dis­agree on a host of other is­sues.

The court near the western city of Izmir sen­tenced North Carolina na­tive An­drew Brun­son to just more than three years in prison for al­legedly help­ing ter­ror groups, but let him go be­cause the 50-yearold evan­gel­i­cal pas­tor had al­ready spent nearly two years in de­ten­tion. An ear­lier charge of es­pi­onage was dropped.

Hours later, Brun­son was trans­ported to Izmir’s air­port and was flown out of Turkey, where he had lived for two decades. He was ex­pected to be flown to the U.S. mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in Land­stuhl, Ger­many.

“I love Je­sus. I love Turkey,” an emo­tional Brun­son, who had main­tained he was in­no­cent of all charges, told the court dur­ing Fri­day’s hear­ing. He tear­fully hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the court de­ci­sion.

Fri­day’s rul­ing fol­lowed wit­ness tes­ti­mony that seemed to partly un­der­mine the pros­e­cu­tor’s al­le­ga­tions and high­lighted con­cerns that Turkey had been us­ing the U.S. cit­i­zen as diplo­matic lever­age. Turkey bris­tled at sug­ges­tions that its ju­di­cial sys­tem is a for­eign pol­icy in­stru­ment, and has ac­cused the U.S. of try­ing to bend Turk­ish courts to its will with tar­iffs in Au­gust that helped to send the Turk­ish cur­rency into freefall.

Brun­son’s re­lease doesn’t re­solve dis­agree­ments over U.S. sup­port for Kur­dish fight­ers in Syria, as well as a plan by Turkey to buy Rus­sian mis­siles. Turkey is also frus­trated by the re­fusal of the U.S. to ex­tra­dite Fethul­lah Gulen, a Penn­syl­va­ni­abased Mus­lim cleric ac­cused by Turkey of en­gi­neer­ing a 2016 coup at­tempt.

The court dropped an es­pi­onage charge against Brun­son, who had faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him. He was among tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, mostly Turks, who were caught up in a govern­ment crack­down af­ter the failed coup.

He was ac­cused of com­mit­ting crimes on be­half of Gulen as well as Kur­dish mil­i­tants who have been fighting the Turk­ish state for decades.

The pas­tor was im­pris­oned for nearly two years af­ter be­ing de­tained in Oc­to­ber 2016. He was for­mally ar­rested in De­cem­ber of that year and placed un­der house ar­rest on July 25 for health rea­sons.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

An­drew Brun­son, right, has been re­leased from cus­tody in Turkey af­ter be­ing sen­tenced to more than three years in prison on ter­ror­ism charges. He is ex­pected to re­turn to the U.S.

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