U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson released from Turkish detention

North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson Reportedly Set to be Released by Turkish Government

North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson Reportedly Set to be Released by Turkish Government

The pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was imprisoned for almost two years - detained in October 2016 and formally arrested in December that year - before being placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.

Brunson, a native of North Carolina, worked as an evangelical Presbyterian pastor at the Izmir Resurrection Church.

A Turkish court ruled on Friday to release USA pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, sentencing him instead to three years in jail but saying he would not spend any more time in custody because of time already served. 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.

Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, Mr Brunson, who was one of 20 Americans charged after the coup attempt two years ago, told the court on Friday he was "an innocent man". "I love Jesus, I love Turkey".

"I'm very hopeful that before too long, Pastor Brunson will - he and his wife will be able to return to the United States", Pompeo said at an awards dinner for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

The charge of espionage against him was dropped.

"We see this as a possible face-saving way for Erdogan to agree to Brunson's release", the Eurasia Group said last week.

William Devlin, an evangelical pastor from NY spoke to reporters outside the prison, saying hundreds of thousands of Christians are praying for Brunson's release.

Andrew Brunson had the American government behind him. His children in the United States were afraid to visit because they were unsure if they'd be allowed to leave.

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"The release of pastor Andrew Brunson is an answer to the prayers of millions of Christians around the world", he said.

Earlier, the court called two witnesses following tips from witness Levent Kalkan, who at a previous hearing had accused Brunson of aiding terror groups. He has called Brunson a "great Christian", and Vice President Mike Pence, the White House's top emissary to evangelicals, had urged Americans to pray for Brunson.

Brunson was arrested in Turkey in October 2016 and was accused of having connections to Kurdish militants and plotting a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

NBC News reported Thursday that two senior administration officials and another person briefed on the matter said a deal to free Brunson would include a commitment by the U.S.to ease economic pressure on Turkey.

"We're overjoyed, but it still doesn't quite seem real", she said of the news of his release.

Altun insisted that Turkish courts were independent from government and impartial: "We would like to remind him once again that Turkey is a democratic country with the rule of law, and that Turkish courts are independent".

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.

Earlier in the day, the prosecutor announced in the final statement that Brunson should be sentenced to 10 years in prison, adding, however, that the judicial controls on the U.S. pastor should be lifted.

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