North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson has been released by the Turkish government after being detained for two years. According to Vox, White House administration officials reached an agreement with Turkey after months of controversial negotiations that threatened to strain relations between the two countries.
Brunson’s release is another win for the Trump administration, which has had some success with its focus on bringing home hostages. The President was happy to hear the news of the evangelical pastor’s release.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Pastor Brunson, and we hope to have him safely back home soon!” Trump tweeted.
Brunson had been charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of the cleric who led a failed coup in Turkey in 2016. He was sentenced to three years in jail, but a Turkish court ruled on October 12 that he could be released on time served.
The pastor, who has lived in Turkey for over 20 years, maintained throughout his detention that he was being held unjustly and that he was innocent of all charges. His arrest came after the Turkish government swept up thousands of people in the wake of the 2016 failed coup attempt.
Earlier this year, Trump doubled the tariffs he’d already imposed on Turkish metal imports in order to pressure the country into releasing the pastor. This move was criticized for its possibility of putting the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. in jeopardy. President Erdogan threatened to sever ties with the United States shortly after Trump increased the tariffs.
“Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives… Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies,” Erdogan wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times.
— Aylina Kılıç (@AylinaKilic) October 12, 2018
Experts say that it is unlikely that Turkey planned to hold the American long-term.
“The case against Brunson, like tens of thousands of other political prosecutions in Turkey, was farcical from the beginning, comprised of guilt-by-association, fabricated evidence, and secret witness testimony. His release is as much a political decision as his initial prosecution was,” Turkey expert at St. Lawrence University Howard Eissenstat told Vox.
The Trump administration has worked with several countries, including Egypt and North Korea, to secure the release of hostages.
Brunson is expected to return to the United States within the next 48 hours.