Turkish Court Frees American Pastor

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.

Pamela Brunson, 75, the mother of the pastor, was at her home in Black Mountain, a town in North Carolina near Asheville, when she learned of the news from a Reuters reporter calling about the court's decision. If found guilty, Brunson could spend up to 35 years in a Turkish prison.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, has denied the charges and maintained his innocence.

"I believe the US administration will correct its wrong view toward our country sooner or later", he said.

Both countries have experienced suspension of visa services and retaliatory sanctions and tariffs.

Upon news of the court decision, he wrote, "PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED".

Under the agreement made between senior White House officials and the Turkish government, Brunson should be released after specific charges are dropped against him at his next court hearing on Friday.

Friday's ruling followed witness testimony that seemed to partly undermine the prosecutor's allegations and highlighted concerns that Turkey had been using the USA citizen as diplomatic leverage. He said the judge was asking the witness about incidents Brunson was not involved in.

But in recent weeks, Brunson's release became the subject of talks "at the highest level" so that the U.S. and Turkey could move on to dealing with over issues facing the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, a United States diplomat told Middle East Eye.

As the Americans urge Turkey not to use the system, Turkish officers worry about the potential for further sanctions after the delay of the F-35s.

The new hearing came at a time of a new but growing alignment between the US and Turkey over the suspected murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in America and who is feared to have been killed inside the Gulf kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

Americans would generally be prohibited from doing business with them. "I love Jesus. I love Turkey", Brunson told the court Friday, speaking in Turkish.

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Turkish prosecutors demand 15 years in prison for committing crimes on behalf of terror organisations without being a member.

Kalkan had told the court he learned from another source that Brunson had been meeting members of the Fethullah Gulen movement, which the Turkish government blames for a failed coup in 2o16. "We will eventually win", the indictment quoted the text.

Four U.S. Senators, including Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, released a joint statement saying Brunson's release would "help improve U.S. -Turkey relations for the long-term".

United States and Turkey resume visa services.

The case has also highlighted concerns over the independence of the Turkish judiciary under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has suggested that Mr Brunson could be released in return for Mr Gulen, who is based in the United States. You have one pastor [Gulen] as well.

"We're very honored to have him back with us".

"We're getting messages from all over thanking God for answering prayer".

"The [pastor] we have is on trial". "They will easily give up Manbij in return of some oil wells in Deir Ezzor or Raqqa", he added. "You can give him right away".

Brunson and his supporters say that the charges against him have been fabricated.

At the U.N. General Assembly last month, Trump and Erdogan had a brief, informal meeting.

Brunson is arrested for his links to FETO. His wife Norine looked on from the visitors' seating area as he listened to testimony from defense and prosecution witnesses. Brunson and his wife are then sent to the immigration office for deportation.

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