U.S. pastor freed by Turkish court 'boards plane home'

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While supporters in the United States celebrated Brunson's release, his case overshadowed the predicament of a Turkish-American scientist from NASA and several Turkish workers for the US diplomatic mission who were arrested in Turkey.

He had faced up to 35 years in jail on charges of aiding terror groups and espionage.

Mr Brunson has lived in Turkey with his wife and three children for more than 20 years.

US Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, "I can't imagine that we would go down that road", in response.

"I look forward to returning home and being reunited with my family", Brunson said.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted: "Pastor Andrew Brunson is coming home!"

With Washington slapping sanctions on Ankara, the crisis also sparked a crash in the Turkish lira in August that exposed Turkey's economic fragility.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had, in recent months, joined the call for Turkey to release Brunson.

Reaffirming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's stance against the threats, Altun said that Erdogan "urged all parties to respect the court's final decision".

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His confirmation would give the US president a clear win in his drive to cement conservative dominance of the high court. Kavanaugh, who denies the allegation, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate as a Supreme Court justice this weekend.

Four U.S. Senators, including Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, released a joint statement saying Brunson's release would "help improve U.S. -Turkey relations for the long-term". Prior to the ruling, he said, "I am an innocent man".

Brunson had been accused of collaborating with terrorist groups and participating in a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

But at the hearing, a witness told the court Kalkan was the source of those accusations.

United States media reported ahead of Mr Brunson's court appearance that the White House expected him to be released following secret talks between Washington and Ankara.

He spent most of that time working for the Izmir Resurrection Church, which had a small congregation. The 50-year-old pastor was detained by Turkey as part of a massive government crackdown following a failed coup months earlier.

USA broadcaster NBC said Turkey and the United States had reached a secret deal for Brunson to be released on Friday and some charges against him dropped, in exchange for the U.S. easing "economic pressure" that included sanctions which have hammered the lira. Washington slapped sanctions on two Turkish officials and doubled tariff on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.

American officials were quoted as saying that the USA military has a plan to fly the pastor back to America on a military aircraft. But he had previously suggested a possible swap of Brunson for the Pennsylvania resident Fethullah Gulen - the cleric that Erdogan has accused of being behind the coup attempt. Gulen denies the claims. Turkey has demanded his extradition but so far USA officials say Turkey has not provided sufficient reason for US officials to extradite the cleric, a former ally of Erdogan who had a falling out with the powerful leader. USA retaliatory sanctions on Turkey has been one of the leading factors in Turkey's devalued Lira. Turkish officials say they fear Saudi Arabia killed and dismembered Khashoggi, without offering evidence explaining why they believe that.

A Turkish security official told MEE that, in the short term, there are no plans for any operations in the area, where around 2,000 USA officers are based to train and advise the SDF.

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