Court convicts American pastor, allows him to leave Turkey

Court convicts American pastor, allows him to leave Turkey

Court convicts American pastor, allows him to leave Turkey

US Pastor Andrew Brunson, front left, arrives at home after his release, following his trial in Izmir, Turkey, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, A Turkish court on Friday convicted an American pastor of terror charges but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave Turkey, in a move that is likely to ease tensions between Turkey and the United States.

A person involved in efforts to free Andrew Brunson say the 50-year-old pastor from North Carolina could be freed at his next court appearance on Friday.

He was sentenced to three years in prison but will not serve time as he had already spent two years in jail. The news agency says Brunson was also charged with spying for Kurdish militants. Brunson has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

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The evangelical pastor wept in court upon hearing the news of his release, Reuters reported. "I want to thank the Trump administration, President Trump and Vice President Pence".

An American pastor who has been held in prison by the Turkish government for two years should be on his way home to the U.S.by the end of the day.

The Trump administration had sanctioned two senior Turkish officials over Brunson's longtime detention - Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu - calling them "leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey's serious human rights abuses", according to the Treasury Department.

Brunson had been accused of collaborating with terrorist groups and participating in a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Brunson had become entangled in a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States and American officials had been pushing hard for his release.

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The charge of espionage against him was dropped.

Erdoğan had previously attempted to craft a deal with the U.S.to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, the USA -based Turkish cleric that he blames for the coup attempt. "I am also grateful that President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Brownback, Senator Tillis, and other United States officials refused to take "no" for an answer for this man's release".

Turkish President Recep Erdogan, meanwhile, had said Turkey won't extradite anyone to the US until USA extradites Gulen.

The new hearing came at a time of a new but growing alignment between the US and Turkey over the suspected murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in America and who is feared to have been killed inside the Gulf kingdom's Istanbul consulate. Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999. "Will be home soon!" he wrote.

Turkish officials had sought meetings with the U.S.to negotiate a resolution to the Brunson case and other issues, but in August National Security Adviser John Bolton declared no such talks would proceed until Brunson was let go.

Erdogan has insisted the case is in the hands of the court and said that he had faith in the court's ruling.

Norine Brunson, the wife of US pastor Andrew Brunson, is escorted by a USA embassy official before his trial in Izmir, Turkey on Friday.

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