A Turkish court has ordered the release of an American evangelical Christian pastor whose imprisonment sparked a row between Ankara and Washington. He was officially sentenced to three years and one month in prison, but was released because he had already served two years in detention.
Brunson also allegedly had information about a possible coup attempt before July 2016 as one of his text phone messages to a U.S. soldier showed his support for the coup plotters, the indictment said.
The case has drawn the attention of North Carolina lawmakers, notably Republican Sen.
The Thursday comments come a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful that Turkey would release the pastor soon, ending a two-year detention that has shaken relations between the one-time allies.
Read the full story here. Brunson denied the accusation and Washington had demanded his immediate release.
"'Give us the pastor back', they say". We're grateful to the President, Members of Congress, and diplomatic leaders who continued to put pressure on Turkey to secure the freedom of Pastor Brunson.
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Last week, Erdogan accused the Trump administration of using Brunson as a pretext for sanctions, charging the pastor has "dark ties to terror groups, Bloomberg reported". The government argued that the American pastor was involved in the failed 2016 military coup, which Mr. Brunson and the USA denied.
Andrew Brunson has been on house arrest since leaving prison due to poor health in July this year. Brunson had become entangled in a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States and American officials had been pushing hard for his release.
An earlier charge of espionage against him was dropped.
Evangelical pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, who was arrested by Turkish authorities in 2016 on charges of espionage and links with terror groups, goes on trial in the city of Izmir.
"It is with great regret that we have been monitoring USA efforts to mount pressure on Turkey's independent court system for some time", Fahrettin Altun, the presidency's communications director, said.
Rumours of a potential deal had circulated after NBC cited sources which said that the U.S. would remove sanctions in exchange for certain charges being dropped against Brunson.
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"We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination", Brunson said, according to the AP.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had resisted USA demands for Brunson's release, insisting that the courts are independent.
Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo made the phone call after the release of the US pastor, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
Trump has doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum and sanctioned two senior Turkish officials, leading to a plunge in the value of the country's lira currency.
The United States has repeatedly called for his release.
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