by WorldTribune Staff, October 12, 2018
A Turkish judge on Oct. 12 ordered American pastor Andrew Brunson be released and sentenced to time served.
Brunson was arrested in October 2016 and was detained for 18 months before being charged by the Turkish government with being connected to outlawed Kurdish groups and opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.
Brunson, who is from North Carolina and led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church, had denied all of the charges against him.
At the Oct. 12 hearing, prosecutors called two witnesses following tips from witness Levent Kalkan, who at a previous hearing had accused Brunson of aiding terror groups. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan’s accusations and another witness for the prosecution said she did not know Brunson.
Brunson testified that he had handed over a list of Syrian refugees his congregation had helped and added that Turkish authorities would have identified any terrorists.
“We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination,” the Associated Press quoted Brunson as saying.
The Trump administration had advocated for Brunson’s release, leading to an intense economic showdown between the two NATO allies. In August, the U.S. slapped sanctions on an array of Turkish officials and on some goods, sending the Turkish currency into freefall.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Oct. 12: “My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!”