Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

FM Çavuşoğlu, U.S. counterpart Pompeo talk on phone after Brunson ruling

FM Çavuşoğlu, U.S. counterpart Pompeo talk on phone after Brunson ruling

"I'm very hopeful that before too long, Pastor Brunson will - he and his wife will be able to return to the United States", Pompeo said at an awards dinner for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

A Turkish court sentenced the pastor to three years and 45 days in prison on Friday, but he will not serve the time in jail.

Tony Perkins, the commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said he welcomed the court's decision Friday along with "the millions of Americans who have been praying for Pastor Brunson's release". Prior to the ruling, he said, "I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey".

The pastor's case has led to a diplomatic dispute between Ankara and Washington, with the USA imposing sanctions and trade tariffs and the threat of more.

Mr Brunson had been accused of links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a coup attempt in 2016.

With Brunson out, the main issue between Turkey and the U.S. now, a Turkish diplomat told MEE, is the "US ambition to create an autonomous state for the YPG in Syria".

Abdulkadir Selvi, a pro-government columnist in the Hurriyet newspaper whose columns are closely watched for indications of the Erdogan administration's thinking, wrote this week he expected the pastor to walk free and "solve" the Turkey-US crisis. Brunson has already denied the charges.

Erdogan, who has in the past taken aim at Brunson, appeared to distance himself from the case in his latest comments, saying he could not interfere in judicial affairs.

Turkey and the USA also disagree over their military interventions in the Syria war, Ankara's plan to buy missile defense systems from Russian Federation and the U.S. conviction of a Turkish state bank executive on sanctions-busting charges in January.

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Brunson's release comes just 10 days after the disappearance of US -based journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Brunson's case has been a source of tension between the two countries and triggered USA sanctions and tariffs to be imposed on Turkey.

Brunson, who had maintained his innocence throughout the the trial, ran a small Evangelical Presbyterian parish in the coastal city of Izmir with about 50 members.

Brunson's trial came as another major diplomatic case is developing in Turkey involving Saudi writer and US resident Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week.

Hours later, Brunson was transported to Izmir's airport and was flown out of Turkey, where he had lived for more than two decades.

Turkey had been close to releasing Brunson before amid detention for charges of aiding terrorist groups.

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.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had, in recent months, joined the call for Turkey to release Brunson. Brunson has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

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

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