Alwaght- American evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson arrived in Germany Friday night after a Turkish court convicted him of aiding terrorism but sentenced him only to time served.
Brunson had been charged with having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and the movement of the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Turkish court on Friday 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 pastor was detained two years ago and has been under house arrest in the city of Izmir since July.
His detention sparked a widening rift between Turkey and the US. Washington called for Brunson’s release and taken a series of punitive measures against Turkey over the continued detainment of the evangelical Christian pastor.
The US measures, which include imposing sanctions on Turkish ministers and doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs, have led to a sharp decline in the Turkish currency. Turkey has retaliated by raising tariffs on certain US imports.
American officials were quoted as saying that the US military has a plan to fly the pastor back to America on a military aircraft.
US broadcaster NBC said on Thursday that Turkey and the US had reached a secret deal to secure Brunson’s release.
But Turkey said its judiciary is independent and US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was "not aware" of any such settlement.
Turkey and the US also disagree over their military interventions in the Syria war, Ankara's plan to buy missile defense systems from Russia and the US conviction of a Turkish state bank executive on sanctions-busting charges in January.