ALIAGA, Turkey — A Turkish court on Friday convicted an American pastor of terror charges but released him from house arrest and allowed him to leave Turkey, a move that’s likely to ease the tensions between Turkey and the United States.

The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced Andrew Brunson to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison for the conviction, but since the evangelical pastor has already spent two years in detention he won’t serve more time.

The charge of espionage against him was dropped.

Brunson, whose detention sparked a diplomatic dispute between the two NATO allies, had rejected the espionage and terror-related charges and strongly maintained his innocence. The United States had repeatedly called for his release and in August slapped sanctions on Turkey.

Lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said Brunson, 50, was expected to leave Turkey for the United States.

The evangelical pastor had faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was one of thousands caught up in a widespread government crackdown that followed a failed coup against the Turkish government in July 2016.

He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of terror groups and of alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by a U.S.-based Turkish cleric who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

Brunson told the court he is “an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey.”

His trial came as Turkey and the United States are embroiled in another major diplomatic incident regarding a Saudi writer — U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi — who disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish officials claim the writer may have been killed inside the Saudi diplomatic mission. Saudi officials reject the claims as “baseless.”

Earlier, the court called two …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

      

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