American Pastor Finally Released by Turkish Court, Trump Gets Praise

Stringer / AFP / Getty Images

Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson (R), escorted by Turkish plain clothes police officers as he arrives at his house on July 25, 2018 in Izmir. - A Turkish court on July 25, 2018 ruled to place under house arrest an American pastor who has been imprisoned for almost two years on terror-related charges in a case that has raised tensions with the United States, state media said. The state-run Anadolu news agency said he was being put under house arrest, although it was not clear if he had already left prison. (Stringer / AFP / Getty Images)

Andrew Brunson, the American pastor held in Turkey under espionage charges for two years, was freed on Friday.

Brunson, 50, was arrested in October 2016 and faced a sentence of up to 35 years in prison; however a Turkish judge issued a sentence of a little over three years long, and then in effect commuting it to time served, CNBC reported.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had claimed the North Carolina preacher supported a failed 2016 coup attempt.

“Witnesses said Brunson wept as the decision was announced. Before the judge’s ruling, the pastor told the court: ‘I am an innocent man. I love Jesus, I love Turkey,'” according to CNBC. The pastor’s wife Norine was watching from the visitors’ seating area as the court issued its decree.

Brunson has lived in Turkey for more than two decades leading the Resurrection Church in the city of Izmir, in the western part of the country.

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North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis told Fox News, “I’ve got to thank President Trump. He was, I think, the MVP in helping us get Pastor Brunson released.”

Brunson’s mother said to Reuters that she and his father were thrilled to hear of their son’s release.

“We are overjoyed that God has answered the prayers of so many people around the world,” she said.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted praising Trump’s “strong leadership’ and exclaiming, “We thank God for answered prayers and commend the efforts of @SecPompeo & @StateDept in supporting Pastor Brunson and his family during this difficult time. @SecondLady and I look forward to welcoming Pastor Brunson and his courageous wife Norine back to the USA!”

Last month at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Pompeo said securing the release of three American prisoners, including a pastor, from North Korea had been the most rewarding experience to date of his tenure at the State Department.

He promised the evangelical crowd on hand that the U.S. was doing everything in its power to free Brunson.

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“He has been wrongly held,” Pompeo said. “And his proper place is to be able to return here to once again practice his faith in our great nation.”

FRC President Tony Perkins said on Friday he had visited with Brunson and his wife in Turkey the day before the court’s ruling, delivering letters from Trump and Pence that assured the couple of the administration’s commitment to secure the pastor’s release.

“The prayers of thousands were answered today when Pastor Brunson was released by the Turkish government and told he could go home to the United States,” Perkins said in a statement after Brunson learned he was a free man. “Those prayers combined with the unwavering resolve of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback brought tangible help to Pastor Brunson and hope to those around the globe who are being persecuted because of their faith.”

He added, “Pastor Brunson was also well represented legally by our friends at the American Center for Law and Justice and we commend them and their attorneys for the outstanding work they did on behalf of Pastor Brunson.”

This post was last modified on October 12, 2018 11:46 am