U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson (pictured above right) has been freed two years after he was imprisoned in Turkey over allegations he was helping to plot a coup against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, multiple outlets are reporting.
Before the judge’s ruling, Pastor Brunson is reported to have told the court, “I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey.”
The Trump administration worked hard for the release of the evangelical pastor, who is originally from North Carolina.
“The Trump administration had pressed hard for the release of Mr. Brunson, an evangelical pastor who runs the small Resurrection Church in Izmir,” reported The New York Times of the release.
He was one of two dozen Americans “detained in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016,” noted that publication, and was charged with “aiding terrorist groups and espionage, charges he denies.”
Evangelical leader Franklin Graham tweeted, “We thank God for the long-awaited release of Pastor Andrew Brunson. I know that his family & friends are anxious to welcome him home. Our thanks to @POTUS & @VP for their hard work on this issue — it wouldn’t have happened without them.”
We thank God for the long-awaited release of Pastor Andrew Brunson. I know that his family & friends are anxious to welcome him home. Our thanks to @POTUS & @VP for their hard work on this issue—it wouldn’t have happened without them. https://t.co/UjM2VTbQIu
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) October 12, 2018
Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, issued the following statement in response to Turkey’s decision in response to American pressure to free Pastor Andrew Brunson: “I join all Americans in sincere thanks to President Donald J. Trump and his administration for their relentless dedication to religious freedom and tough negotiations with Turkey to secure Pastor Brunson’s release today. Yet another example of ‘promise made, promise kept’ by the Trump Administration. Praise God!”
Brunson’s detention was widely condemned, and the U.S. moved to place tariffs on Turkey’s already vulnerable economy.
In July, after nearly two years in prison, Brunson was moved to house arrest, according to the U.K.’s The Independent.
“His house arrest and ban on leaving the country has also been lifted,” the privately owned NTV news channel reported; this paves the way for the 50-year-old to return to the United States.
A Turkish court originally handed down a sentence of three years …