Pastor Andrew Brunson has been released from Turkish custody after being held since 2016. Brunson was arrested on terror charges of which he continually pleaded innocent.
A married father of three native to North Carolina, Brunson pastored with a Presbyterian church in Turkey. A failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government resulted in over 50,000 people being arrested for their alleged involvement. Brunson was one of them jailed in 2016.
Adding to Brunson’s troubles he was additionally accused of being associated with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a Kurdish group of militants residing in Turkey. Although the U.S. has found Kurdish groups to be tremendous allies fighting the Islamic State, in this case the U.S. has declared the PKK a terror group in response to tactical violence.
The Brunson team hold that the charges brought against him are fabrications.
The pastor was able to relocate from Turkish prison to house arrest in July, citing health issues.
Then in August, Brunson appealed to be released from house arrest as his trial was pending, which was denied by a Turkish Court. He had been facing a possible 35 years in prison.
Most recently Brunson was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to three years in prison. But the judge also ruled that the sentence could be reduced to time served for good behavior. Brunson was also released from house arrest, which will allow him to leave the country.
The sentencing appears to have been made to save face while releasing the pastor. As holding him has weighed heavily on the Turkish economy.
Trump had made threats of “large sanctions” against Turkey if it did not release Brunson. Vice President Mike Pence also encouraged Erdogan to release Brunson “or be prepared to face the consequences.”