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Home / World / Andrew Brunson: Pastor in Turkey travels home in the US

Andrew Brunson: Pastor in Turkey travels home in the US



  Mr. Brunson and his wife at the airport in Izmir

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Reuters

Caption

Mr. Brunson and his wife at the airport in the western city of Izmir

A US pastor has come home after more than two years in detention in Turkey, which has weighed on relations between the two countries.

Andrew Brunson is said to have landed with his wife near Washington DC.

President Trump said In a tweet, Mr Brunson would visit the White House on Saturday after landing in the United States.

Earlier, a Turkish court sentenced Mr. Brunson to three years in prison ̵

1; but he released him for the time he had spent in detention.

Following a failed coup attempt in 2016, he was arrested for alleged links to political groups, including the banned Gülenist movement.

Additional espionage charges against him were dropped.

Mr Trump thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his release and insisted that no agreement had been reached with Turkey to allow his return.

What did Brunson say?

"On this day our family prayed, I am happy to be on my way home," Brunson said in a statement.

"My whole family thanks the President, Government and Congress for their unwavering support," he added.

On late Friday he flew from Izmir in eastern Turkey to a US base in Germany and on to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Speaking to reporters in Cincinnati, Mr. Trump said he was "honored" to have Mr. Brunson back in the US.

Image copyright
EPA

Caption

Members of Mr. Brunson's church celebrated in front of his home after he was released

"He has suffered a lot, but we are very grateful to many people," he said.

Mr. Trump denied in US media that the US had an agreement with Turkey to sanction the release of Mr. Brunson.

What was he charged with?

Mr. Brunson lived with his wife and three children in Turkey for more than 20 years and worked mainly for the small Izmir Resurrection Church, which consisted of a congregation of about two dozen people.

He was arrested in October 2016. The authorities accused him of having links with the banned Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) and the Gülenist movement, which blamed Turkey for the failed coup of 2016. He also had to face up to 35 years in prison for espionage.

In July 2018, he was released from prison for health reasons, and was put under house arrest until his trial. A few weeks later, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior ministers over its continued detention.

Mr. Brunson and US officials insisted he was innocent.

What happened in court?

Mr. Brunson, who was sitting in a black suit, white shirt, and red tie, was one of 20 Americans The coup attempt two years ago told the court he was "an innocent man."

"I love Jesus, I love Turkey," he said.

The pastor was convicted of allegedly belonging to terrorist groups without being a member and sentenced to three years in prison. The court took into account the time he had already spent in detention, suspended his house arrest and foreign travel ban.

When the verdict was read, he cried and hugged his wife Norine.

"Pressure was too much"

By Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey Correspondent

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan He has always insisted that he can not interfere with the independence of the Turkish judiciary and that only the courts would decide on the fate of Pastor Brunson. But the World Economic Forum places the 103rd out of 137 countries in the independent judiciary ranking, and Turkey observers knew there would always be a political decision.

In the end, Washington's pressure in Ankara was too great. Sanctions, trade tariffs and the threat of more had brought US-Turkey relations to collapse – and with them the Turkish Lira. In the face of rising inflation, a 40% fall in the value of the currency and the onset of an economic crisis, Turkey has had to act to normalize relations with the US. Mr. Brunson was the key.

Andrew Brunson had the American government behind him. Former World Correspondent Deniz Yucel, who was arrested in Turkey and eventually released, was supported by the German government. Tens of thousands of others here who demand illegal detention do not have the support of a powerful state that opposes the policies of the Turkish police.

Why is it important?

The imprisonment of Pastor Brunson has tarnished relations between Washington and Ankara, allies of NATO, while both sides have imposed sanctions on each other

President Recep Tayyip accuses the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen of attempting to coup, but Mr. Gulen, based in Pennsylvania, denies any involvement

Turkey wants the US to agree to his extradition. US support for Kurdish forces fighting the Syrian civil war has also upset Erdogan, who sees it as an extension of the PKK.

The PKK – a Turkish-Kurdish rebel group fighting for autonomy since the 1980s – is considered a terrorist group By Turkey and the US

But in recent weeks, Erdogan said he hopes to have relations with Washington to rebuild the spirit of strategic partnership.

More than 50,000 people were arrested in Erdogan's huge post office in Turkey. Crushing the coup


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