Turkey Released US Priest: “Negotiation were Handled by Matthew Bryza And İhsan Aslan”
The Turkish court ordered the US Rev. Andrew Bronson to be jailed for three years, one month and 15 days and to lift house arrest and travel ban, but the court on Friday – ordered the release of the priest after taking into account his time in custody.
“We expect his client to leave the country today,” Brunsson lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said.
The trial on espionage and terrorism-related charges against Brunson has sparked a diplomatic row between Washington and Ankara, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“I am an innocent man, I demand my acquittal, I will leave my defense for the lawyer, I love Christ and I love the Turks,” Brunson told the court.
Ankara accuses Brunson of links to the US-based Fathallah Gülen, blamed by Turkey for the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Brunson is also accused of links to the PKK, which Turkey labels a terrorist organization.
Brunson was born in 1968. He has been living in Turkey for 23 years and has a small evangelical church there, with 25 followers.
He has two sons in Turkey and was ready to apply for permanent residency in Turkey, his lawyer said. He grew up in North Carolina, the eldest of seven brothers and a very religious family.
“When he was young, he almost died from a terminal illness, and that’s why I gave him to the Lord,” he said.
“Our family life was very simple. We were the model of an American family living in remote places,” said his sister Beth. He moved to Turkey in the mid-1990s and settled with his wife and three children in Izmir. And the Church of the Resurrection, which is sponsored by it, is among the few Christian places of worship there.
“He is a noble man, a Christian figure, and is unjust in Turkey for no reason,” he said.
The court evacuated Brunson in July this year but placed him under house arrest. This angered the United States because it hoped to release him.
In the past days, the British Financial Times published what it described as “the scenes of the secret deal” concerning the release of the US pastor, which has had serious repercussions on the Turkish economy.
“US officials spent months working with Turkish diplomacy to solve the problem of the American pastor, Andrew Brunson, but Erdogan spoiled it at the last moment,” the newspaper said.
“US President Donald Trump has personally sought to resolve differences with Turkey and has intervened to secure the release of a Turkish woman detained in Israel on charges of laundering Iranian money and sentenced to 32 months in jail.
According to the Financial Times, secret negotiation were handled by the American side, Matthew Bryza, a former US diplomat living in Turkey.
On the Turkish side, negotiations were conducted by İhsan Arslan, the Turkish politician, who is described as a “confidant” by Erdogan.
After nearly two years in prison and house arrest, the Turkish judiciary decided to release US priest Andrew Branson, a relative breakthrough in a crisis that has soured relations between Ankara and Washington and deepened Turkey’s economic crisis in recent months.
The second criminal court in Izmir ordered Branson prison for three years and months and 15 days under article 220/7 of the Turkish law, but ordered the release of the priest after taking into account his time in prison, House arrest and travel ban “. Was released on Friday.
Trump wrote on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers with Pastor Brunson, and hope to return safely to us soon.”
“We will not pay anything for the release of an innocent man,” Trump wrote on Twitter last week. “But we will reduce costs on Turkey,” he said. “Turkey has long used the United States for its own interests.”
For his part, the lawyer of US pastor Andrew Branson said that his client will probably return to the United States after a court in Turkey issued an order on Friday to release him.
Asked if Branson would go to the United States, lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said: “He will likely leave.”