American Pastor Andrew Brunson has been released from prison in Turkey and put under house arrest due to health problems, the Hurriyet Daily News reported Wednesday.
The paper said the Second High Penal Court in the western province of İzmir released him due to “health problems.”
Brunson has been in prison for two years on spying and terrorism charges, which he has called “shameful and disgusting.”
For the past 23 years, Brunson and his family have lived in Turkey where he runs a protestant church in the Aegean province of Izmir on Turkey’s western coast.
In 2016, he was arrested for allegedly working with the outlawed PKK Kurdish militants that have waged a years-long insurgency in southeast Turkey, and for allegedly being involved in a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
“There is no concrete evidence against me,” Brunson said earlier this month after a Turkish court decided to keep him in jail. “I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them.”
The Christian pastor’s imprisonment has angered Washington, A NATO ally, with the Senate passing a bill prohibiting Turkey from buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jets, and condemning Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
President Trump has called out Erdogan by name, saying in a July 18 tweet that Bruson’s detainment is “a total disgrace.”
“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!” he wrote.
Responding to the news of Brunson’s release from prison, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said transferring him to house arrest still wasn’t good enough.
“We welcome long overdue news that Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest in #Turkey, but it is not enough. We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner,” Pompeo said in a tweet.
Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
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
Brunson’s next trial date is set for October.
The 50-year-old pastor, who is from North Carolina, has a wife and a daughter.