A Turkish court today ruled to release US pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, sentencing him to three years in jail but saying he will not spend any more time in custody because of time already served.
The court’s decision to lift judicial controls meant that evangelical pastor Brunson, at the heart of a diplomatic spat between the two countries, could leave Turkey and return to the United States.
Brunson lived in Turkey for over two decades with his family, and was arrested in 2016 in a government-led crackdown following the failed coup in 2016. He faced a prison term of 35 years for allegedly spying and inspiring violence under terrorism legislation.
The pastor’s lawyer insisted that the case had been politicised over eroding diplomatic ties between Ankara and Washington. “It is very hard for the Turkish judiciary to act impartial in such a politicised case. Therefore, we are prepared to take it to the relevant international judicial authority, the ECHR,” Halavurt said.
According to Al Jazeera, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested an exchange of Fethullah Gulen – who he says orchestrated the failed coup – for Brunson as part of a prisoner swap deal.
The United States imposed sanctions on two Turkish government ministers, and in August Washington raised tariffs on Turkish metal exports causing the lira to drop. In mid-August, the US threatened a “second wave” of sanctions on Turkey as a result of Brunson’s continued detention.
Turkey has been vying to stabilise its currency, reassuring global investors that the sanctions would only make the country stronger.