US president to meet with freed pastor at White House

By Muhammed Bilal Kenasari


U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he will receive American pastor Andrew Brunson at the White House once he arrives in the country.

“So we have good news. Pastor Andrew Brunson is in the air, from Turkey. He is, I think, in good shape. He’ll be stopping, most likely, in Germany for a full check-up,” Trump told reporters following the release of Brunson, who was sentenced in western Turkey over terror-related charges.

“And he’s going to be coming to the Oval Office, most likely on Saturday,” he added, noting there was no deal made for his release.

A Turkish court sentenced the pastor to three years and 45 days in prison Friday, but he will not serve time in jail. The court credited his time spent in detention and ended his house arrest and travel ban.

Brunson was arrested on Dec. 9, 2016 on charges of being a member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO). On July 25 of this year, citing Brunson’s health problems, a court in the city of Izmir ordered him moved from jail to house arrest.

Brunson’s charges include spying for the PKK — listed as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and Turkey — and FETO, the group behind the defeated coup attempt in Turkey of July 2016.

Turkey and the U.S. have faced rocky relations following Washington’s imposition of sanctions over Brunson’s detention.

Political tensions between the two countries sparked worries in financial markets after Trump threatened to use economic pressure to secure Brunson’s release.

*Sena Guler in Ankara contributed to the story