American Pastor Back in Court for Spying and Terror Trial

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Tillis spoke about Brunson's case on the floor of the Senate numerous times, pledging not to stop until he was released.

Brunson faced up to 35 years in prison had he been convicted of the alleged crimes he committed. His wife Norine watched from the visitors' seating area as he listened to testimony from defence and prosecution witnesses.

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The court passed a 3 years and 1-1/2 month sentence on Brunson, who had been charged with terrorism offences, but said he would not serve any further time because he had already been detained since October 2016.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday that the USA was hopeful he would soon go free but said she was unaware of any agreement on his release. His lawyer said the electronic ankle bracelet for monitoring was removed.

Brunson's lawyer took the case to Turkey's highest court last week seeking his release.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had resisted USA demands for Brunson's release, insisting that the courts are independent.

But a top Turkish official criticized Trump's tweet and American pressures for the pastor's release. "I love Jesus. I love Turkey", he said in his final defence.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was one of thousands caught up in a widespread Turkish government crackdown that followed a failed coup against the government in July 2016.

The Turkish government arrested Brunson in October of 2016, claiming he was aiding two groups it considers terrorists - the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Hizmet movement led by USA -based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Gulen has denied the claim.

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"I don't know why they would pay so much attention to one man".

American pastor Andrew Brunson walked out of court a free man today after 24 months of imprisonment, including house arrest.

Brunson appeared in the courtroom in the western coastal town of Aliaga wearing a black suit, white shirt and red tie.

A Turkish court sentenced the pastor to three years and 45 days in prison on Friday, but he will not serve the time in jail.

At the ACLJ, we represent Pastor Andrew - a USA citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina - who was imprisoned in Turkey because of his Christian faith.

"Brunson's release is a big deal for U.S. -Turkey relationship: It clears the air in [bilateral] ties, resets ties between two powerful presidents, lets off steam against Turkey in U.S. Congress, and allows Turkey and the U.S.to tackle [bilateral] issues without the emotional dimension of the pastor's arrest", according to Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He denies the accusation and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

Administrations officials have said Brunson's release "would be a significant step towards mending ties between the USA and Turkey".

Brunson's mother told Reuters she and his father were elated at the news.

Shortly afterward, the USA also imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, citing national security.

Turkey has urged the U.S.to halt its support for Kurdish YPG fighters or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria.

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