Turkish court frees US pastor Brunson after 2yrs in jail
Charging him with terrorism offenses, the court handed down a sentence of 3 years and 45 days for the evangelical Christian pastor on Friday. Despite the verdict, the court also ruled that the American would not serve any further time, as he had already been detained by authorities since October 2016.
Brunson has already returned from court to his home in Izmir, and was reportedly spotted at Izmir’s Cigli Airport on Friday evening. It is understood that a private plane will whisk him back to the US.
Brunson lawyer: My client is a free man as of now, has already left for home, expect him to go to airport right after, will appeal the conviction. pic.twitter.com/85tHQSPX5I— Erdem Aydın (@eerdemaydin) October 12, 2018
Prior to the judge’s ruling, Brunson told the could that he was “an innocent man” adding: “I love Jesus, I love Turkey.” Reuters reports that Brunson wept as the court’s decision was announced.
Following a failed coup attempt in 2016, the North Carolina native was charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen - the Turkish cleric living in the US whom Ankara has blamed for the attempted coup. Brunson has repeatedly denied the accusations made against him, and his lawyer has commented outside of the Turkish court that his client will appeal his conviction.
Since his 2016 arrest, Brunson has stood at the center of a diplomatic row between Turkey and the US, as NATO allies sparred bitterly over the pastor’s imprisonment. Branson’s release could be the first step to mending relations between the two countries.
Brunson’s imprisonment led to US tariffs against Turkey and drawn condemnation from President Donald Trump, who frequently lashed out at Ankara over the American’s detainment. In the minutes following the judge’s court decision, Trump took to Twitter to declare that he is “working very hard on Pastor Brunson”.
My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2018
PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2018
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