US Pastor Brunson Convicted, But Released On Time Served

Update 2: Here's Trump taking credit for Brunson's release:

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Update: as noted below, Turkey has announced a "Schrodinger" sentence of Pastor Brunson, who was both sentenced for 3 years, and also released for time served in prison. From Reuters:

  • COURT SENTENCES U.S. PASTOR TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON
  • COURT CONVICTS, BUT FREES PASTOR BRUNSON ON TIME SERVED
  • TURKISH COURT RULES TO RELEASE U.S. PASTOR BRUNSON FROM HOUSE ARREST

This means that Brunson can now come back to the US. At the same time, Turkey announced it would keep an Adana consulate officer imprisoned just so Erdogan does not seem too much of a pushover.

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It appears that Trump's strong-arm tactics with Turkey have yielded another success.

On Friday, a Turkish prosecutor called for a jail sentence of 10 years for a U.S. Christian pastor on Friday, while also asking the court to lift judicial controls, a move that would allow Andrew Brunson to leave the country immediately. The prosecution's odd request would mean that the US pastor can be released even if he is convicted, pending appeals procedures, effectively providing a loophole for Brunson to leave the country even as he is "sentenced" allowing Erdogan to safe face while the US pastor returns to the US.

The prosecutor in the trial against Brunson paved the way for Brunson's release after key witnesses backtracked from their implicating testimonies in today’s hearing, Hurriyet reported. The fourth hearing against Andrew Brunson began at 10:40 a.m. in a prison complex in the Aliağa district of the coastal city of İzmir. As a CNN journalist noted, today's reversal took place after some witnesses "changed their previous testimonies."

One of the witnesses, Büşra Fatma Ün, said she had never heard before that the members of the illegal PKK were treated at a hospital owned by a friend of Brunson and were then sent to Syria to fight.

Another witness, who was unidentified, said he had never seen the members of which the Turkish authorities label as FETÖ in a prayer house by Brunson. He said he had heard it only as a rumor.

On the other hand, another unidentified witness also backtracked from his claim that a Syrian member of Brunson’s congregation was making bombs for terror attacks. Retracting his earlier statements in the indictment, the witness said he is a nationalist and views all Syrians as terrorists.

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While the Turkish judge is not expected to acquit the U.S. pastor in the latest hearing of his trial on terrorism charges, CNN Turk television reported, the court will instead make an interim ruling. Such a decision could mean an adjournment of the trial, or the release of Brunson pending his next hearing.

Brunson has been detained in Turkey since 2016 on terrorism charges. The United States is calling for his release and has imposed sanctions on the NATO member as his internment continues.

After news of the imminent release, the lira rose 0.5 percent to 5.88 per dollar at 2:49 p.m. in Istanbul, adding to gains made late on Thursday on speculation Brunson would be freed.

As we reported previously, on Thursday NBC reported that Brunson will be released and be allowed to return to the United States as part of a secret deal reached between Washington and Ankara.

Once Brunson is released, it would pave the way for a reduction in the Halkbank fine, some US waivers on Turkey purchasing Iran crude and potentially some IMF support down the road.