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Turkish court releases US pastor Andrew Brunson

 Turkish court releases US pastor Andrew Brunson


A Turkish judge has released Andrew Brunson, a US pastor detained in Turkey, in a move likely to end an unprecedented clash between the Nato allies that had undermined the lira.

Mr Brunson, an evangelical preacher, was told he could walk free on Friday even after the judge ruled he was guilty of aiding terrorist organisations.

The judge reduced his sentence from five years to three years, one month and 15 days, then ruled he did not have to serve more time because he had already spent two years in detention.

Minutes after the verdict US President

Donald Trump tweeted

: “Working very hard on Pastor Brunson!” He added: “My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!”

The Turkish authorities had accused Mr Brunson of espionage, but Washington said the charges were politically driven and imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers.

The Trump administration had expressed confidence in recent days that Mr Brunson would soon be released from house arrest, boosting the Turkish currency.

The lira rose

1 per cent against the dollar before the ruling on Friday, taking its total gains for the week to 4 per cent. The lira is still down against the US currency by more than 30 per cent this year, weakness driven partly by the US-Turkey rift.

The lira’s fall has contributed to more general currency woes across emerging markets.

The ruling came in a courtroom in the town of Aliaga, an hour-and-a-half drive from Mr Brunson’s home in the Aegean port city of Izmir.

The pastor faced a panel of three judges alone in a pen designed for hundreds of defendants in a cavernous courtroom, as his wife Norine and US diplomats looked on.

The 50-year-old pastor was arrested two years ago and accused of links to Kurdish militants and followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for masterminding an abortive 2016 coup. Mr Brunson called the charges “slander”.

Negotiations between Washington and Ankara before a previous court hearing in July failed to resolve the  impasse.