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International: Turkey – Pastor released to house arrest

September 2018

American pastor Andrew Brunson has been released from a Turkish jail after more than 600 days imprisonment, although he remains under house arrest. American policy makers had been making repeated demands to Turkish authorities to release the pastor, threatening sanctions against the capital, Ankara.

In a tweet, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, welcomed Andrew Brunson’s release from prison, but said the decision did not go far enough. He said, ‘We welcome long overdue news Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest in Turkey, but it is not enough. 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’.

Mr Brunson had been detained in October 2016, accused of espionage on behalf of Kurdish insurgents and the movement behind the failed 2016 coup attempt, the Fethullah Gülen network. His trial, which is dominated by secret witness testimony, has been repeatedly condemned as farcical by US officials and other monitors.

Although he was put under house arrest, due to health issues, the Washington Post stressed the trial is still continuing, with the pastor being tried on ‘terrorism-related charges’. In July, Brunson addressed the court, asserting his innocence and describing some of the prosecution witnesses as troubled former congregants, the Washington Post reported.

Since President Erdoğan’s crackdown, thousands of alleged opponents have been rounded up and jailed.  According to the Stockholm Centre for Freedom, as at January this year, Turkey has 245 journalists locked up behind bars, and 140 journalists face outstanding arrest warrants.