Key events in USA pastor Brunson case
- Author: Tracy Klein Oct 13, 2018,
Oct 13, 2018, 0:43
US President Donald Trump, who has imposed sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to secure Mr Brunson's freedom, tweeted: "Pastor Brunson just released". When the newly appointed prosecutor asked them about past statements they made asserting that a parishioner - a member of the blacklisted Kurdistan Workers Party - was building bombs, both men said that the statements were rumors they had heard from the other. His wife Norine watched from the visitors' seating area as he listened to testimony from defence and prosecution witnesses.
An earlier charge of espionage against him was dropped.
Since the coup, the Turkish government has moved to purge or arrest thousands it believes were involved or sympathized with the Gulen movement, including people in the civil service, police forces, universities and media organizations. The fact that he is preparing to return to the United States can only be viewed as a significant victory for Pastor Brunson and his family.
Addressing the sentence, Brunson's lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt noted that the missionary would probably go back to the United States.
The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced North Carolina native Andrew Brunson to three years, one month and 15 days in prison for allegedly helping terror groups. He was arrested on charges of espionage and for his alleged links to the PKK and Fetullah Terror Organisation (FETO), which is blamed for the unsuccessful July 2016 putsch attempt. The case had become a a cause célèbre among Christian evangelicals and a vocal priority for U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence-as well as a source of friction between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.
NBC News reports that while the reasons for the sudden cooperation from Turkey are unclear, speculation is that Turkey is looking to ease the economic pressure that exists as a result of Brunson's situation.
Brunson's lawyer told the court there was no evidence against his client, at which point the judge asked Brunson to speak.
Brunson's charges include spying for the PKK - listed as a terrorist group by both the US and Turkey - and FETÖ, the group behind the July 2016 defeated coup attempt in Turkey.
The U.S. continues to refuse Ankara's demands that the cleric Gulen be extradited.
"It's been an extremely hard time for our family and we want to express our appreciation to the millions of people around the world who have faithfully prayed for this day", Brunson said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resisted US demands for Brunson's release, insisting that the courts are independent.
William Devlin, an evangelical pastor from NY spoke to reporters outside the Turkish prison, saying hundreds of thousands of Christians were praying for Brunson's release.
A U.S. pastor has left Turkey after more than two years in detention in a case that badly strained ties with the US.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always insisted that he could not meddle with Turkey's judicial independence and that only the courts would decide Pastor Brunson's fate.
The American Center for Law and Justice had been working in the USA and overseas to secure Brunson's release.
Brunson led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church.