Turkish court rules that USA pastor move from jail to house arrest

26 Juillet, 2018, 04:42 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Emre Tazegul  AP

An American pastor, whose imprisonment has contributed to heightened tensions between the USA and Turkey, was released from a Turkish prison on Wednesday and placed under house arrest.

A Turkish court in the city of Izmir said it was releasing Brunson, who was detained in October 2016, to his home due to health issues. He has also been banned from leaving the country.

Extensive security measures have been taken at the Brunson residence.

Arrested after the failed Turkish coup attempt in 2016, Brunson was charged with supposed ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party and US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey believes inspired much of the turbulence.

Brunson, 50, has been charged with espionage as well as aiding outlawed Kurdish militants and an American-based anti-government Turkish cleric in a 2016 coup attempt.

As recently as last week, a Turkish court denied Brunson's release, with President Trump slamming the decision as "a total disgrace".

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed what he said was the "long overdue news" of Brunson's transfer, but said it was not enough.

The pastor faces 35 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.

Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir Turkey
ReutersU.S. pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir Turkey

The case has strained ties between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Turkey and the United States.

US officials had been under the impression that the deal was in place, the source said, adding that when Brunson was not released, Pence spoke with President Donald Trump and the two agreed harsh new policy measures were needed to force the issue.

The announcement that Brunson would be moved from prison to house arrest comes as the State Department hosts a Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom.

"We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner", Pompeo tweeted. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!

Erdoğan has previously linked his fate to that of Gülen, whose extradition from the United States has been a long-held demand of Turkish authorities.

Gulen, who denies orchestrating the coup attempt, lives in Pennsylvania.

Congress has considered imposing sanctions on Turkey over its detention of Brunson, including barring the sale of F-35 fighter jets.

At the end of a recent hearing, the court inside a prison complex in the town of Aliaga in western Turkey rejected Brunson's lawyer's request that he be freed pending the outcome of the trial.

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