Turkey frees US pastor following dramatic court appearance

Turkey frees US pastor following dramatic court appearance
Turkey has released a jailed American pastor who was at the centre of a rift between the Washington and Ankara.
2 min read
12 October, 2018
Brunson was released on Friday [Getty]
American pastor Andrew Brunson walked free from a Turkish court on Friday, a move that might help end a major diplomatic rift between Ankara and Washington.

His release came after a dramatic court appearance on Friday, when a judge ordered his sentence reduced making him free to fly home to the US.

Four of the witnesses in the case changed their testimonies that allowed the court to reduce Brunson's sentence, following mounting speculation he would soon be released.

Brunson was held for two years in Turkey, convicted of terror-related charges over his alleged links to exiled US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The court ruled he should be freed taking into account time served and his good conduct in the trial.

His house arrest and overseas travel ban were also lifted by the court, following a request by the prosecution.

Brunson's case became a cause de celebre in the US, with evangelicals campaigning hard on the issue.

President Donald Trump launched sanctions on Turkey earlier this year over Brunson's jailing, and made resolving the pastor's case a key foreign policy issue for his administration.

On Friday, Trump welcomed his release.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!" he tweeted.

Turkey has been under growing pressure to release the pastor due to the worsening financial conditions in the country.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also faced criticism for his handling of the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consul in Istanbul last week.

Brunson was filmed leaving the court on Friday and is expected to fly home this weekend.