Trump Secures Pastor Brunson's Release

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Spokeswoman Debi Forester said the church's Rev. Richard White has been with the Brunson family in Turkey for a day or two and the U.S. Consulate is handling Brunson's travel arrangements to return to the United States.

President Donald Trump launched sanctions on Turkey earlier this year over Brunson's jailing, and made resolving the pastor's case a key foreign policy issue for his administration.

After the ruling, Brunson's lawyer said the pastor was likely to leave Turkey.

Brunson, who is from North Carolina and has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, has been accused of helping the group headed by exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in Pennsylania and whose supporters Ankara says were behind a failed military coup in 2016.

The case against Mr Brunson, an evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years and was arrested two years ago, had led to USA tariffs against Turkey and drawn condemnation from Mr Trump.

Prosecutors had accused Brunson of acting on behalf of terror groups, specifically linking him to outlawed Kurdish militants and a network led by USA -based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always insisted that he could not meddle with Turkey's judicial independence and that only the courts would decide Pastor Brunson's fate.

"We're overjoyed, but it still doesn't quite seem real", she said of the news of his release.

The earlier charge of espionage against him was dropped.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he hopes to have U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson back in the United States soon.

Brunson reiterated his innocence in the final hearing, asking the court to acquit him.

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U.S. economic sanctions also hurt the Istanbul stock exchange and the Turkish lira, which dropped to the historic low against the dollar.

The United States has repeatedly called for his release.

Brunson's release was a diplomatic triumph for Trump, who is counting on the support of evangelical Christians for Republican candidates ahead of congressional elections in November.

Brunson was arrested and detained for 18 months before finally being charged by the Turkish government with a connection to the coup attempt.

Erdoğan had previously attempted to craft a deal with the U.S.to trade Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, the USA -based Turkish cleric that he blames for the coup attempt.

"I look forward to returning home and being reunited with my family", Brunson said.

The Trump administration had sanctioned two senior Turkish officials over Brunson's longtime detention - Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu - calling them "leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey's serious human rights abuses", according to the Treasury Department.

The court's decision of house arrest had failed to improve tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and Washington sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.

Brunson flew out from Izmir, Turkey on Friday evening, and has left Turkish airspace en route to Germany.

Brunson on Friday also again denied accusations his church aided Kurdish militants.

Brunson's lawyer took the case to Turkey's highest court last week seeking his release from house arrest.

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