- A Turkish court convicted, but ordered the release, of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was detained for two years on charges of espionage and terrorism related to Turkey’s failed 2016 military coup.
- His and arrest and subsequent detention was a major source of tension between the United States and Turkey, with the US imposing sanctions on senior Turkish officials to put pressure on Turkey to release him.
- Officials from the US and Turkey reportedly struck a behind-the-scenes deal at last month’s United Nations General Assembly meeting for Turkey to release Brunson in exchange for the US lifting the sanctions.
A Turkish court on Friday convicted North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson of aiding terrorism in connection with an attempted 2016 coup, but sentenced him to time served and ordered his release from house arrest after months of pressure and sanctions from the United States over his detention.
“PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!”, President Donald Trump triumphantly tweeted in all-caps after the news broke on Friday morning.
Turkish authorities charged Brunson, 50, on offenses related to terrorism and espionage, accusing him of working with pro-Kurdish separatists and others to plot Turkey’s failed 2016 military coup. At the time of his arrest, he was leading a small Evangelical congregation in Ankara.
While Brunson was released from jail and put on house arrest in July, his case continued to be a significant source of tension between the US and Turkey.
The Trump administration sanctioned two senior Turkish officials to express their opposition to the detention of Brunson, whom President Donald Trump called a “great Christian, family man, and wonderful human being.”
Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan initially declined to interfere in what he said was an independent legal matter, but diplomatic representatives from the US and Turkey reportedly struck a behind-the-scenes deal at last month’s United Nations General Assembly meeting for Turkey to release Brunson in exchange for the US ending the sanctions.
In all, Turkey is estimated to have detained 160,000 people, including some Americans, on charges of helping orchestrate the attempted coup, according to the UN.