President Trump Accomplishes Another “Impossible” Task, Freeing American Pastor Held By Turkey

It has been reported today that a Turkish court ordered the release of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who was placed on house arrest. The move will end Brunson’s 24-month imprisonment, and he will soon be able to fly back home.

It will also bring some kind of closure to the diplomatic disagreement between the United States and Turkey.

The New York Times reports that Brunson was given a sentence of three years, one month, and 15 days imprisonment, however the judge lifted the judicial controls, which included a travel ban after 24 months based on good behavior and time served. This means that the American pastor can come home.

Brunson was taken from the courthouse in a car not long after the judge made the ruling and the decision was made public.

The Trump White House had been working on the evangelical pastor’s release. Brunson is the head of the small Resurrection Church in Izmir, and the Times reports that he was “one of two dozen Americans detained in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016 and was charged with aiding terrorist groups and espionage, charges he denies.”

 President Trump tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!” after hearing the news.

“Thanks be to God,” stated the Reverend William Devlin of New York. Devlin had been to every single one of Brunson’s hearings. He explained, “Pastor Brunson is going home. We thank the court, we thank Turkey and we thank President Erdogan.”

The Times writes:

Washington and Turkey have been involved in complex negotiations over the fate of Mr. Brunson for months. Turkey is grappling with a growing economic crisis and has been anxious to reduce a fine of billions of dollars that the United States Treasury is expected to impose on the state-owned Turkish bank, Halkbank, for its part in a conspiracy to violate American sanctions against Iran.

Mr. Brunson’s release also coincided with the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist who was a columnist for The Washington Post, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

Turkish officials say they have video and audio evidence that Mr. Khashoggi, a United States resident, was killed, and his case may have compelled Turkey to seek to repair relations with Washington to secure its help in confronting Saudi Arabia, analysts said.

Ankara has been accused by Washington of having held Brunson and around 20 Turkish-Americans as well as three American consular mission Turkish employees, claiming that they were being used as leverage against the US and that there was no evidence of credibility.

Turkey asked the United States for the extradition of the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The Times writes that the US has accused Gulen “of running a terrorist organization and of instigating the 2016 coup attempt. Mr. Erdogan once suggested a swap of the cleric and the pastor.”

Erdogan has been working on reducing Halkbank’s charges. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a bank official, was given a 32-month sentence in May.

An agreement regarding Brunson and Atilla’s release was almost made between the two countries in July, however, Erdogan decided to hold out in order to make sure that where would be no further prosecutions against the country.

It was ordered by a Turkish court that Brunson would stay in custody. Since August, he has been living with his wife, Norine, after being moved to house arrest.

To read more on the matter take a look at the New York Times article.

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