Turkish court convicts U.S. pastor of terror yet frees him
ALIAGA, 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, a move that’s likely to ease tensions between Turkey and the United States.
The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced North Carolina native Andrew Brunson to three years, one month and 15 days in prison for allegedly helping terror groups. But since the 50year-old evangelical pastor had already spent nearly two years in detention, Turkish law allowed him to remain free with time served. An earlier charge of espionage against him was dropped.
Brunson, a N.C. native whose detention had sparked a diplomatic dispute between the two NATO allies, had rejected the espionage and terrorrelated charges and maintained his innocence.
Brunson 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.
After the verdict, President Donald Trump tweeted he was praying for Brunson, saying he “WILL BE HOME SOON!”
Lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said Brunson was expected to leave Turkey for the U.S., but it was not clear when. His lawyer said the electronic ankle bracelet monitoring his house arrest was removed. Brunson went back to his home in Izmir after the court proceeding.