American pastor Andrew Brunson freed from Turkish custody

Source: The Hill | October 12, 2018 | John Bowden

The White House reached a deal with Turkish authorities for the Friday release of Andrew Brunson, a U.S.-born pastor jailed in Turkey on charges of terrorism.

Brunson, who was charged by Turkey with aiding a 2016 coup attempt against Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, charges the U.S. calls baseless, was reportedly put on a flight to Germany for medical evaluation Friday morning and will then return home to the U.S.

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Brunson had been jailed for years as part of Turkey’s response to his alleged involvement in the coup attempt, and his internment had sparked criticism of the NATO ally from Christians in the U.S. and around the world.

The two countries traded economic blows over Brunson’s imprisonment, with the Trump administration announcing sanctions on a pair of top Turkish officials in August and Turkey retaliating days later against top officials in the U.S.

The status of those sanctions following Brunson’s release remains unclear, and the White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

A senior administration official had indicated Thursday to NBC News that a deal was forthcoming, and again maintained Brunson’s innocence regarding the coup.

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Friday’s release of the pastor coincides with sharply increased tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States concerning the disappearance in Turkey of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Washington Post journalist last seen entering a Saudi consulate.

Turkish investigators probing Khashoggi’s disappearance have in recent days reportedly shared with U.S. counterparts the contents of video and audio recordings that support the claim that Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi personnel.

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