Turkish court releases U.S. pastor Brunson from house arrest

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-12 23:48:52|Editor: yan
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ISTANBUL, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- A Turkish court on Friday decided to release U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, a development that is helpful in easing tension with Washington, local media said.

The court in the western city of Izmir, following a hours-long hearing, also lifted the travel ban on the pastor in the province of Izmir, while sentencing him to three years, one month and 15 days in jail over charges of being a member of a terror group, the NTV broadcaster said.

Brunson, however, is expected to be freed and allowed to leave the country when taking into consideration the period he has spent in jail up to now, NTV said.

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

Gulen is accused of masterminding a coup bid in Turkey in July 2016 that left 250 people dead, while the PKK was outlawed for its decades-old armed struggle against the Turkish state.

Brunson was arrested in December 2016 on charges of being a member of the Gulen network, now named by Ankara as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization, and spying for the PKK.

A court ordered him to be moved from prison to house arrest on July 25 this year, citing his health problems.

In August, Brunson's continued detention became a flash point in relations between Ankara and Washington, two NATO allies, prompting the United States to impose sanctions on two Turkish ministers and double tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Turkey.

The row has contributed to a fall in the value of the Turkish currency, as Turkey is facing economic woes including huge debt and high inflation.

The Trump administration has been calling for unconditional release of Brunson, threatening further punitive measures against Ankara.