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American Pastor Back In U.S. After Release From Turkish Custody


U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson arrives at his home after his trial in Izmir on on October 12.

An American evangelical pastor held for two years in Turkey has arrived in the United States, a day after a Turkish court ordered his release despite sentencing him to three years in prison on terrorism-related charges.

Andrew Brunson landed at a military base outside Washington and then traveled to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump.

The U.S. leader told him "we've been negotiating long and hard" for his release and that "we do not pay ransom in this country."

"From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that's not bad," Trump said.

Brunson told Trump that "you really fought for us."

Earlier, Trump thanked Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had resisted the demands of Trump and other high-level U.S. officials for Brunson's release.

Erdogan responded to Trump on Twitter, saying that "as I've always emphasized, the Turkish judiciary made its decision independently. I hope the U.S. and Turkey will continue its cooperation as it befits two allies."

On October 12, a court in western Turkey convicted Brunson on terrorism-related charges and sentenced him to three years in prison. But the court ordered his release after taking into account time he had already served while awaiting trial and his good conduct.

Brunson's detention since October 2016 caused a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Ankara -- leading the United States in August to impose sanctions on its NATO ally, double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports, and withhold delivery of 100 F-35 fighter jets.

He was charged with links to Kurdish militants and the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Ankara for a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Brunson, who had lived in Turkey for more than two decades, rejects the charges.

Washington says he was unjustly held as part of a wide-scale crackdown on political opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that followed the failed coup.

With reporting by AP, Reuters. and AFP
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