Saturday, 17 November, 2018

After Being Held for Two Years in Turkey, Pastor Brunson is Released

North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson Reportedly Set to be Released by Turkish Government Officials believe US on verge of securing release of North Carolina pastor held in Turkey
Ray Hunter | 13 October, 2018, 01:46

American pastor Andrew Brunson has begun his journey home after being freed from house arrest in a case that badly strained ties between the U.S. and Turkey.

"There wasn't any evidence whatsoever" against him, Lauren Brunson said, "and as a family we are just glad it's over".

Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke over the phone following the release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, a Turkish diplomatic source said Friday.

The evangelical pastor had faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges.

A Turkish court on Friday convicted an American pastor of terror charges but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave Turkey, a move that's likely to ease the tensions between Turkey and the United States.

Two senior administration officials said there was no deal with Turkey for Brunson. His lawyer said the electronic ankle bracelet monitoring his house arrest was removed.

In August, the USA slapped sanctions on an array of Turkish officials and on some goods, sending Turkish currency into freefall.

But a top Turkish official criticized Trump's tweet and American pressures for the pastor's release. The two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies were caught in an economic battle as tensions worsened because of Mr. Brunson's imprisonment.

Her son strongly denies any connection to the Gulenist movement and Mrs Brunson added: "He never even knew a person connected to Gulen".

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A Turkish court has ordered the release of pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held in Turkish custody since 2016 when he was arrested on terror charges.

The PKK - a Turkish-Kurdish rebel group fighting for autonomy since the 1980s - is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and the US. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan's accusations. He was arrested in October 2016 and accused of complicity with the attempted coup against President Recep Erdogan in July that year.

"We are grateful for the President's commitment and efforts in securing my release", Brunson said in a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working to secure his release.

The pastor is a native of North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for more than two decades and has been imprisoned for the past two years.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!" he tweeted.

"May the Lord strengthen Pastor Brunson and his family as they work to turn the page on this hard chapter in their lives", Johnson adds.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that he had no sway over the judiciary and that the courts would decide on Brunson's fate.

But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson and the Pennsylvania-resident Fethullah Gulen - the cleric accused of being behind the coup. The U.S. military planned to fly him home on a military aircraft, officials told Reuters. "No deal", Trump replied when asked if his administration offered to remove some sanctions from Turkey in exchange for Ankara letting the pastor go. Turkish officials say they fear Saudi Arabia killed and dismembered Khashoggi, without offering evidence explaining why they believe that.

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