An American pastor who has been in Turkish custody since 2016, when he was arrested on trumped-up terrorism charges, will be moved to house arrest following his latest hearing earlier this month.
Andrew Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, who is based in Turkey, will be released from jail and moved to his house due to “health problems,” Turkey’s state-run news agency announced Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
A Turkish court in western Izmir ruled the minister will be electronically monitored and barred from leaving his home. He cannot yet return to the United States.
During a court hearing last week, Brunson was for the third time denied release. If he’s convicted, the pastor could face up to 15 years in prison for “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member.”
A handful of sources have claimed he has connections to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a link Brunson has repeatedly denied.
Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence took to Twitter last week to voice their support for the imprisoned pastor:
A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018
Pastor Andrew Brunson should have been freed long ago. His words in a Turkish court yesterday -“My faith teaches me to forgive”- inspired millions. Brunson’s faith will sustain him, but it shouldn’t have to. @POTUS Trump & I will NOT stop fighting until this good man comes home. https://t.co/0hLDhXcCm9
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 19, 2018
Trump, however, faced some criticism from fellow conservatives after he met with Turkish President Recep Erdogan, whom he praised for doing things “the right way.”