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Turkey frees US pastor from house arrest (Lead)

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Ankara | Friday, 2018 8:15:05 PM IST
A Turkish court on Friday freed American pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest two years after he was detained on accusations of helping plot a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The court on Friday sentenced Brunson to three years and one month in prison, but chose to release him based on his time already served. Prosecutors were seeking a 10-year jail term, CNN reported.

He denied charges of espionage, which could have led to a 35-year jail term.

The court's decision came a day after report said that US officials believed they were on the verge of securing Brunson's release.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson and we hope to have him safely back home soon!" US President Donald Trump tweeted after the verdict.

The 50-year-old pastor, who has been living in Turkey for more than two decades, was detained two years ago over espionage charges and links to a network led by the US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Gulen is accused of masterminding a coup bid in Turkey in July 2016, in which 250 people were killed, while the PKK was outlawed for its armed struggle against the Turkish state.

The case has been at the centre of deteriorating ties between Washington and Ankara, heightened by Trump's defence of Brunson as his administration elevated religious freedom as a cause.

In August, Trump said that Turkey had "not acted as a friend" and "they made up phoney charges that he's a spy. He's not a spy".

Trump slapped Turkey, a NATO ally, with sanctions in August, targeting the country's justice and interior ministers.

US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said at the time that the US was prepared to add more sanctions if Brunson wasn't released.

--IANS soni/

( 307 Words)

2018-10-12-19:54:07 (IANS)

 
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