World: Freed pastor Brunson leaves Turkey, due in U.S. Saturday
Izmir,October 13, 2018,(AltAfrica) – A U.S. pastor was flown out of Turkey on Friday after a court freed him from two years of detention, in a step that could improve U.S.-Turkish ties strained by disputes over Syria, Iran and Ankara’s planned purchase of Russian military equipment.
Pastor Andrew Brunson was expected to land at Joint Base Andrews near Washington at around noon EDT (1600 GMT) on Saturday after a stop in Germany for a medical check-up.
Brunson was jailed two years ago and had been under house arrest since July. He was accused of links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey’s government for a coup attempt in 2016.
The Turkish court sentenced Brunson to three years and 1-1/2 months in prison on terrorism charges, but said he would not serve any further jail time and freed him.
Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, denied the accusations and Washington had demanded his immediate release.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell greeted Brunson and his wife during a refuelling stop in Germany, the envoy said on social network Twitter.
“He’s almost home thanks to @realDonaldTrump,” Grenell wrote. “When I presented him with the US flag, he immediately kissed it.”
President Donald Trump said Brunson would probably visit the White House Oval Office on Saturday.
Asked if U.S. sanctions imposed on Turkey to try to win Brunson’s release might be lifted, Trump said no agreement was made for the pastor’s freedom.
“There was no deal made at all. There was no deal. But we’re very happy to have him and have him in good shape.” Trump told reporters in Cincinnati.
The diplomatic fight over Brunson had accelerated a recent sell-off in Turkey’s currency, worsening its financial crisis.