Turkey Places US Pastor Andrew Brunson Under House Arrest
A Turkish court released U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been in jail pending trial for 19 months, and placed him under house arrest.
Brunson was arrested in October 2016 on charges of espionage and terrorism. Last week, a court in Izmir decided to keep him in prison despite the calls from the U.S. to release him.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump called the verdict a “total disgrace.”
He will be under legal supervision. A ban on traveling abroad has been placed. His movements will be seriously restricted.
US pastor Andrew Brunson has left jail and is on his way to his way to his home in the city of Izmir, according to Turkish TV station A Haber. He has spent almost two years behind bars on espionage and terror charges. Will remain under house arrest. pic.twitter.com/dFxjuuat6k
— Laura Pitel (@laurapitel) July 25, 2018
According to Turkish media, Pastor Brunson left the prison and went his home.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcome the news but said it is not enough.
We welcome long overdue news that Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest in #Turkey, but it is not enough. We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner. pic.twitter.com/So2A4hfinZ
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 25, 2018
The Brunson case significantly strained ties between Turkey and the U.S. A number of bipartisan U.S. Senators pioneered a new bill last week to block international financial loans to Turkey over the ongoing imprisonment of Brunson.
Previously, both chambers of the U.S. Congress approved bills mulling to suspend delivery of the F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, to the opposition of Pentagon which worried over disruption of supply chains and worsening of relations with a key NATO ally.
President Trump last week expressed indignation over the court ruling. He urged his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to do something for the release of the pastor who remained in a high-security prison nearly two years.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted over a number of charges. He is accused of abetting and aiding an outlawed Kurdish militant group in southeastern Turkey and a Muslim civil society organization blamed by the Turkish government for the failed 2016 coup attempt.
Turkish prosecutors also accuse him of carrying out espionage on behalf of foreign militaries, charges that are regarded by the U.S. administration to be ridiculous and baseless.