(October 12, 2018 / JNS) After a two-year dilemma, Turkey has freed U.S. evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson, who faced charges that he helped organize a coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
A court sentenced Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, to a little more than three years behind bars, but decided to release him with his time previously served. Prosecutors sought a 10-year prison sentence.
Before the decision, U.S. President Donald Trump posted on Twitter, “My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!”
Turkey’s economy has suffered as a result of U.S. sanctions due to Brunson’s captivity. The United States has also halted sales of F-35 fighter jets to the country as a consequence.
However, that pressure must remain, said Diliman Abdulkader, director of the Kurdistan Project at the Endowment for Middle East Truth.
“Whether Pastor Andrew Brunson is released or not, [President Trump] must keep the pressure on Turkey,” he tweeted. “With countless human-rights violations under Erdoğan in addition to collaborating w/designated terror organizations, ethnic cleansing Afrin [in Syria] while attacking our allies [Syrian Democratic Force].”
Former Turkish parliament member and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Aykan Erdemir and echoed Abdulkader’s sentiment: “Even if Pastor #AndrewBrunson finally walks free today, justice will not be served. … Ankara needs to issue an official apology, pay reparations and prosecute all plotters who helped frame the pastor.”
Brunson, who was released on Oct. 12, is expected fly to Germany for a medical evaluation at the U.S. Ramstein Air Force Base, a White House official told CNN.
Christians United for Israel founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee said “we are grateful for President Trump’s efforts to free Pastor Brunson, who was unjustly accused an unduly punished. But it should never have come to this. Human beings are not pawns. President Erdoğan’s regime remains a malevolent force in the region, and CUFI will work to minimize their influence until such time as Turkey returns to the days when they were a true and reliable Western ally.”