USA pastor freed by Turkish court after diplomatic row

BREAKING White House Reaches Deal With Turkey to Free Jailed US Pastor Andrew Brunson  image Getty Center for Law and Justice

US Pastor Andrew Brunson, front left, arrives at home after his release, following his trial in Izmir, Turkey, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, A Turkish court on Friday convicted an American pastor of terror charges but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave Turkey, in a move that is likely to ease tensions between Turkey and the United States. However, the judge ruled that Brunson's sentence could be released to two years time served for good behavior.

Trump slapped Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, with sanctions in August, targeting the country's justice and interior ministers.

A convoy with a auto with U.S.Pastor Andrew Brunson leaves the courthouse after his release following his trial in Izmir, Turkey, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.

"I am thankful for the representation of the American Center for Law & Justice - especially ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and ACLJ Senior Counsel CeCe Heil - as well as the many others who worked so hard to obtain my freedom", Brunson said.

After the verdict, President Donald J. Trump tweeted he was praying for Brunson, saying he "WILL BE HOME SOON!"

News and The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the United States and Turkey had reached an agreement in which some charges against Brunson would be dropped and he would be released at the hearing or soon after.

Abdulkadir Selvi, a pro-government columnist in the Hurriyet newspaper whose columns are closely watched for indications of the Erdogan administration's thinking, wrote this week he expected the pastor to walk free and "solve" the Turkey-US crisis. They include NASA scientist Serkan Golge and three Turkish employees of the USA mission to Turkey. "Those prayers combined with the unwavering resolve of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback brought tangible help to Pastor Brunson and hope to those around the globe who are being persecuted due to their faith". James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, for thier work.

Another witness, who was unidentified, said he had never seen the members of which the Turkish authorities label as FETÖ in a prayer house by Brunson.

The Post said the deal included lifting USA sanctions, some already imposed and others threatened.

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

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Turkey had been close to releasing Brunson before amid detention for charges of aiding terrorist groups.

Turkey showed the first signs of relenting in July when it moved Brunson to house arrest instead of incarceration, but refused to fully release him, until today. He was officially sentenced to three years and one month in prison, but was released because he had already served two years in detention.

NBC's sources said an agreement on Brunson's release was advanced in discussions last month between Turkish and US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, during the United Nations General Assembly in NY.

Pastor Brunson trial starts early morning in Izmir.

"There is still work to be done and President Erdogan has a long way to go before acting like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally we expect him to be", Sasse said in a statement.

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

Turkey wants the U.S. to agree to his extradition.

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

However, in recent weeks, Mr Erdogan said he hoped to rebuild relations with Washington with "the spirit of strategic partnership".

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