A Turkish court has freed US pastor Andrew Brunson two years after he was detained and charged with helping to plot a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The case had soured relations between Turkey and the United States, heightened by President Donald Trump’s defense of Brunson as his administration elevated religious freedom as a cause.
Today, the court sentenced Brunson to three years and one month in prison, but chose to release him based on his time already served, as well as his manner during the proceedings, his lawyer said. Prosecutors were seeking a 10-year jail term.
The court’s decision comes a day after a source told CNN that US officials believed they were on the verge of securing Brunson’s release.
Trump tweeted after the verdict: “My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!”
Turkey’s presidential office denied any deal with the US had taken place and criticized trump for tweeting that he had been “working very hard on Pastor Brunson” and his release.
“It is with great regret that we have been monitoring US efforts to mount pressure on Turkey’s independent court system for some time. During this period, our country has been subjected to various threats of sanctions,” said Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency’s communications director, in a written statement.