- Friday, October 12, 2018 6:02 PM
Aliaga, 12 October 2018 (MIA) - A Turkish court ruled on Friday that the American evangelical Christian pastor at the centre of a row between Ankara and Washington could go free, a move that could be the first step towards mending ties between the NATO allies, Reuters reports.
The court sentenced Andrew Brunson to over three years in prison on terrorism charges, but said he would not serve any further jail time. The pastor, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, was put in prison two years ago and has been under house arrest since July.
US President Donald Trump, who has imposed sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to secure Brunson’s freedom, tweeted:“PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!”
Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, the North Carolina native wept as the decision was announced, witnesses said. Before the judge’s ruling he had told the court: “I am an innocent man. I love Jesus, I love Turkey.”
After the ruling, Brunson’s lawyer told reporters the pastor was likely to leave Turkey. The US military has a plan to fly Brunson back to America on a military aircraft, officials told Reuters.
The diplomatic stand-off over Brunson, who had been pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, had accelerated a sell-off in Turkey’s lira currency, worsening a financial crisis.
Brunson had been accused of links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a coup attempt in 2016. Brunson denied the accusation and Washington had demanded his immediate release.
US broadcaster NBC said on Thursday that Washington had done a secret deal with Ankara to secure Brunson’s release. lk/18:02
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