Trump says freed U.S. pastor will be 'back home soon'

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

Witnesses later said he wept as the verdict was announced.

A Turkish court has convicted an American pastor of terror charges, but ruled that the two years he already spent detained means he will not serve additional time and is free to leave the country.

Ankara blames Gulenists for the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime.

"The prayers of thousands were answered today when Pastor Brunson was released by the Turkish government and told he could go home to the United States".

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, also is crediting the Trump administration for its role in obtaining the pastor's release.

Members of the Christ Community Church in Montreat, North Carolina, were overjoyed at Brunson's release. Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, was jailed two years ago and has been under house arrest since July.

He was arrested in October 2016.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday that the USA was hopeful he would soon go free but said she was unaware of any agreement on his release. The U.S. military planned to fly him home on a military aircraft, officials told Reuters.

USA media reported ahead of Mr Brunson's court appearance that the White House expected him to be released following secret talks between Washington and Ankara.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Presidents Trump and Erdogan met at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels in July What happened in court?

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According to CNN, he said: "I am an innocent man".

Mr. Brunson was sentenced just over three years in prison, but he was released for time served. His wife Norine looked on from the visitors' seating area as he listened to testimony from defense and prosecution witnesses.

Turkey bristled at suggestions that its judicial system is a foreign policy instrument, and has accused the USA of trying to bend Turkish courts to its will with tariffs in August that helped to send the Turkish currency into freefall. But the World Economic Forum places Turkey 103rd of 137 countries in the independent judiciary rankings and Turkey-watchers knew it would always come down to a political decision.

Tillerson visits Turkey in a bid to solve the problems between Washington and Ankara.

Other state lawmakers in Washington called on the U.S.to impose sanctions on Turkey in retaliation for Brunson's treatment.

U.S. and Turkey begin talks in Washington in an effort to normalise relations.

"I do not understand how this is related to me", Brunson said after the judge questioned one of a series of witnesses. Deniz Yucel, the former correspondent of Die Welt, who was imprisoned and then finally freed in Turkey, had the German government supporting him. "And may God protect and give peace to our other brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to endure hardships and severe persecution around the world due to their faith in Him".

The trial of an American pastor at the heart of a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States resumed Friday in Turkey, with observers waiting to see if authorities will release him amid threats of further USA sanctions.

He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups and of alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a US-based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

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