Turkey convicts USA pastor but lets him leave

A Turkish court has freed American pastor Andrew Brunson after two years in detention, according to Turkish state media.

The evangelical pastor is accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in jail if convicted. Charges against Brunson would be reduced and he would be sentenced to time served or be allowed to serve any remaining term in the United States, the Post said, citing USA officials and people close to the case.

Additional espionage charges against him were dropped.

Andrew Brunson has been on house arrest since leaving prison due to poor health in July this year.

Brunson hugged his wife and shed tears of joy as he left the courtroom flanked by an American delegation.

U.S. President Donald Trump also welcomed the news.

American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was at the centre of the diplomatic row between Turkey and the U.S., was released on Friday, after a two year-long detention.

Lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said Brunson, 50, was expected to leave Turkey for the United States soon. His lawyer said the electronic ankle bracelet for monitoring was removed.

The Trump administration advocated persistently for Brunson's release, leading to an intense economic showdown between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

USA media reported ahead of Mr Brunson's court appearance that the White House expected him to be released following secret talks between Washington and Ankara.

Brunson was arrested and detained for 18 months before finally being charged by the Turkish government with a connection to the coup attempt.

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But Turkey said its judiciary is independent and US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was "not aware" of any such settlement.

Andrew Brunson, an evangelist pastor from North Carolina, was arrested in 2016 over alleged links to political groups involved in a failed coup against the government of President Erdogan.

Gulen, who is a lawful permanent resident of the USA living in Pennsylvania, has denied that allegation.

"I don't know why they would pay so much attention to one man".

Brunson told the court he is "an innocent man". Those expectations were raised after witnesses told the court earlier on Friday that previous testimonies attributed to them were inaccurate. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan's accusations.

He spent most of that time working for the Izmir Resurrection Church, which had a small congregation.

The pastor was imprisoned for almost two years before being placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.

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. Brunson has already denied the charges.

Brunson's continued detention - and Erdogan's refusal to release him despite intense pressure from the White House - was a significant factor in a precipitous decline in U.S. -Turkey relations in recent months.

Washington had imposed sanctions on two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports in August to push its demands for the pastor's release.

Among those thorny issues that remain are Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile system, US support for Kurdish groups in Syria, and Erdogan's sweeping crackdown on political opposition.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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